John Sperry Dies

The longtime owner and breeder of racing Quarter Horses was 81.

Press release

Longtime California-based owner and breeder John Sperry died on December 7.

John Sperry, a long time Quarter Horse owner and breeder, former member of the California Horse Racing Board, and president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 324 in Orange County for many years before retiring from the post in the early 2000s, passed away on December 7. He was 81. 

Sperry owned racehorses for more than 35 years and was introduced to the sport by his father, who was a Thoroughbred racehorse owner in the 1930s. Sperry raced about 200 Quarter Horses, most of them trained by Paul Jones, including current star Jess Good Reason, a Grade 1 winning 4-year-old mare who will compete in Saturday’s $750,000 Champion of Champions at Los Alamitos. Sperry also owned a solid broodmare band that he kept at his ranch in Hemet, California.

"I've loved horses all my life," Sperry said after a victory in the late 1990s. "When I was younger I would always try to sneak in to Los Alamitos. I can even remember when the Vessels family owned the ranch before the track was built at Los Alamitos and they would run races in the other direction. I’d be there watching and cheering the horses on."

Owned by Sperry and his late wife Cina, Jess Good Reason was his biggest star. She won the Grade 1 Charger Bar Handicap in January to go along with victories in the 2015 Holiday Handicap, 2016 La Primera Del Ano Derby and Adequan Derby Challenge Championship, and this year’s first division of the Z. Wayne Griffin Directors Trial. Sperry also campaigned Stel Corona, the winner of the 2003 PCQHRA Breeders Derby and at one time the owner of the fastest 300-yard clocking ever by a 2-year-old at Los Alamitos.

Sperry's other noteworthy runners included five-time stakes winners in Inthetwinkleofaneye and Carols Treasure. He also campaigned 2013 La Primera winner Revv Me Up, 2005 Kaweah Bar Handicap winner Corona Captain, and 2008 El Primero Del Ano Derby runner-up Kite Flyin. Since 1990, Sperry’s Quarter Horses have won 97 Quarter Horse races from 440 starters and earned over $1.6 million.

One of Sperry's best horses in the early 1990s was the First Down Dash filly Keen Dasher, who earned about $24,000 and ran fourth against stakes company at Los Alamitos. Keen Dasher would go on to produce  Inthetwinkleofaneye. Sperry's interest in racehorses rubbed off on Carol, his wife of 42 years until her passing over a decade ago. It wasn't a hard sell, as Carol was also an avid animal lover.

Sperry was also one Paul Jones’ first clients when he started his training career. John and Carol spent most Monday nights coming to the barn to feed carrots to all of Jones’ horses. Carol was once quoted as saying that Monday evenings were her favorite night of the week.

“John was a great man,” Jones said. “He was a father figure to me. If I ever needed anything, he was always there for me. He was like that with a lot of people. He was just a kind person. He (was) really good to me back when I didn't have a lot of horses. He really supported me and would give me horses to train.

"He and Carol would come out and give the horses apples and carrots," Jones added. "They really enjoyed being around the horses. His health had declined over the past few years, but he would still come to the races as much as possible. I’m going to miss him a great deal.”

John Sperry is survived by two sons, Michael and Ron, and one granddaughter, Kaitie. A private memorial service will be held.

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