Oscar Jeffers, Jr. owned a Ford auto dealership in Wagoner during the 1950s, but his passion was racing American Quarter Horses. Known as “June” to friends and family (short for Junior), Jeffers had long sought a mare that could produce a champion. His wife Zelma shared his passion and together they purchased a Texas mare called Mur L. They bred her to an American Quarter Horse Hall of Famer named Three Bars. They named the foal Mr. Bar None.
June later remembered the birth of Mr. Bar None at his Wagoner ranch in 1955.
“He was the most magnificent colt I have ever seen,” he stated.
The dark chestnut had a white star and white blaze down his face that would later show through his racing silks. June and Zelma were sure they had produced a winner.
But the spindly-legged horse was lazy at first and seemed uninterested in the racing career the Jeffers had planned for him. Disappointed, the couple considered selling the colt, but instead hired an Oklahoma jockey named Tecumseh Stark to work with him. “Starky” was able to turn the young horse around and bring him to top racing form.
Starting him slowly, Jeffers entered Mr. Bar None in his first race at Porter in 1957. It was not an official Quarter Horse race, and the 2-year-old won it easily. The following week, he won in Tulsa over a horse called Vinegar Bend. Following these two wins, Mr. Bar None debuted at an official track in Tucson, Arizona, where he set a record for colts.
For the racing seasons of 1957 and 1958, Jeffers raced Mr. Bar None at courses across the west. With a new jockey named Kenneth “Chap” Chapman aboard, Mr. Bar None led a competitive field, winning many of the typical $15,000 purses available at Quarter Horse tracks. It doesn’t sound like much today, but that was big money at the time.
Altogether, Mr. Bar None earned over $72,000 during his two-year career. Of his 36 races, he won 22 and placed second in 10. In many races he broke the course record. His wins earned him the title of Champion Two-Year-Old Running Colt, rated AAA at every distance.
In April 1958, Mr. Bar None won at Los Alamitos, California, the richest of the Quarter Horse races and considered the equivalent of the Kentucky Derby. By this time, Mr. Bar None was considered the fastest Quarter Horse in the world.
In December 1958, the last race of the season was at the Autumn Championship. Jeffers had decided it would be his horse’s last race and he really wanted a win. But Mr. Bar None was up against the best field he had ever faced. Many of the horses on the track had defeated him in past races.
Jeffers reported to his family that when he woke up on the morning of the race, his horse seemed lethargic and had reverted back to his lazy ways. He wouldn’t trot; he wouldn’t gallop. Jeffers was sure they would not win this race.
So he had the jockey take the horse out on a practice run and told him to work him hard. “Chap” questioned this, but did as Jeffers said. This was the way Starky had handled Mr. Bar None at the beginning of his career. And it worked. Mr. Bar None came out of the gate fast and finished “with daylight.”
Mr. Bar None retired to the Wagoner ranch, earning for June and Zelma some hefty stud fees. June wrote once that a friend told him he thought he would go broke racing horses, but Mr. Bar None proved him wrong.
“I can make more with one stud fee than I can selling a new car,” June claimed.
The Champion of Champions died on a cold winter day in 1982 at the ripe old age of 27 years. June had built his champion stallion a barn not far from his own house and placed a large sign near the highway proclaiming the ranch to be the home of Mr. Bar None. At the horse’s death, Jeffers erected a statue of the stallion near that barn. Mr. Bar None was inducted into the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame in 2014.
Reach Jonita Mullins at email@example.com.