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March 11, 2012
Ronsepi * Los Alamitos Race Course photo
Having saddled 1,294 Quarter Horse winners at Los Alamitos and worked with champions like Sign Of Lanty, Separatist and Chingaderos and the 1979 Champion of Champions winner Mr Doty Bars, trainer John Cooper knows his way around a horse as well as anyone. With more than 40 years in the sport, “Coopie” is one of the most respected Quarter Horse trainers on the West Coast. He is also known for being one of the best trainers when it comes to caring for a horse’s feet and legs.
Cooper needed every bit of his knowledge and experience when it came to the Separatist gelding Ronsepi, who on Friday evening powered himself to a three-quarter length victory against a field that featured stakes winner Jus Ledoux It, graded stakes finalist Girlie Man and consistent performer Josef Levy. The 4-year-old Ronsepi covered the 300 yards in :15.49 while scoring his second win in only four starts. Owned by Cooper and Ron Hartley and bred by Hartley, Ronsepi’s breakout victory improved his 2012 record two victories in three starts. He did not race at all in 2011 after finishing second in his only start of his freshman campaign in 2010.
“We thought very highly of him as a 2-year-old after he had a :12.10 workout,” Cooper recalled. “We had offers from people that wanted to buy him right up to the time of his first race. We had a $50,000 offer for him that we turned down. In his first race he got run over and they knocked out a hole in his foot. That ended his 2-year-old season, but we didn’t do surgery on him. We let it heal and we did our own work with him to grow out his foot. It still hasn’t grown 100 percent back, but it’s looking better all the time.”
Ronsepi has a great deal of sentimental value for Cooper. His mother is a mare that he claimed from Ed Allred’s stable named Rondini and she was bred to the great Separatist to produce Ronsepi. Cooper believes that there’s enough speed and talent to have a lot of fun with Ronsepi in the years to come.
“He’s lightly raced and he’ll fit in hopefully in some nice races,” Cooper added. “He is still learning how to run and he only has four starts in his life. I was little nervous hooking up those nice horses like Jus Ledoux It because they have so much experience under their belts. Ronsepi might never be as good as he could have been going into his 2-year-old debut, but he can still do a lot of good.”
Cooper is doing well himself, as he has already won five Quarter Horse races from his first 22 starters this season. He’s also saddled a pair of Thoroughbred winners this year. Cooper won only seven of 91 Quarter Horse starts in the entire 2011 campaign.
“You have to run the horses where they fit in talent wise,” he said. “When you do that you can look pretty good as a trainer. If you run horses where they belong then you’ll always have a chance of hitting the board.”
Cooper ranks fourth in the all-time list of Quarter Horse trainers at Los Alamitos and only trails Blane Schvaneveldt, Paul Jones and Charles Treece. His stable of runners has been a staple here going back to the 1970. A member of the Idaho Quarter Horse Association Hall of Fame, Cooper began his training career in Pocatello, Idaho, in 1966. Schvaneveldt encouraged Cooper to try his luck at Los Alamitos and the solid sprinter Uncle West became his first big star in California. Cooper quickly built a solid reputation as an excellent leg man thanks to his work with Mr Doty Bars.
“We claimed him. He had some physical problems. We fixed his legs and he went on to win the Champion of Champions," Cooper once said.
“We had to be very hands on around the horses and I was lucky to pick up a few things from some pretty smart guys,” he added. “Back then there was not much medication to lean on. Bute was like a gift when it first became okay to use. You had to sit under the horses and ice them and sweat them. If I did see something I didn’t like in one of my horse’s legs I would run my hands down their legs. You could feel heat in their legs as it would get warm as you got closer to the soreness. You could feel the pulse of a horse. You could feel the heat in the knee and ankles if you paid attention.
“Bandages on a horse’s leg as a precautionary measure,” he added. “I remember years ago different trainers would take turns teaching kids how to wrap horses – it was groom school. The way you apply the wraps is always from the inside out. You have to be careful because if you put too much wrapping in the wrong spot you might end up with a tendon problem on a horse.”
Cooper has seen it all in his 42 years in racing at Los Alamitos. He now hopes that his talented runner Ronsepi continues to deliver on the promise he showed prior to the start of his 2-year-old season.
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