Late trainer John Russell.

Late trainer John Russell.


John Russell, Trained Hall of Famer Susan's Girl, Dead

John Russell, who conditioned champions Susan's Girl and Track Robbery, died last night at his home in Del Mar. Calif., from cancer. Russell, 67, had been placed in a hospice arrangement for his illness. He was paralyzed in 1995, but recovered.

An English native, Russell trained some 55 stakes winners. Susan's Girl, whom he conditioned for Fred W. Hooper during her championship seasons in 1972-73, won such top events as the Kentucky Oaks, Acorn Stakes, Beldame Stakes, Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap (gr. I) and Delaware Handicap (gr. I). Susan's Girl is a member of the Racing Hall of Fame.

Russell trained off and on for Hooper for three decades, sending out such other stars as Precisionist late in his career and Tri Jet.

Russell took over the training of Track Robbery near the end of her 1982 championship season. He saddled her to win the Spinster Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland that fall.

"He was a great man, a great horseman and a great friend," said trainer Eoin Harty, who worked with Russell for eight years after Harty came from his native Ireland. "He was a great mentor as well."

In the 1970s, Russell trained for members of the Phipps family and won major races with such prominent runners as Majestic Light, Intrepid Hero, Outdoors, and Effervescing. Campaigned by Ogden Mills "Dinny" Phipps, Majestic Light developed into a successful stallion at the Hancock family's Claiborne Farm near Paris, Ky.

Son of prominent English trainer James Russell, the younger Russell came to the U. S. in 1953 with the thought of enrolling at Stanford University. He instead wound up at Tanforan racetrack near San Francisco and a career was born.

Russell authored numerous articles in The Blood-Horse, many of which were opinion pieces that appeared in the "Final Turn." His vast knowledge of a wide range of subjects written in an easy-to-understand manner endeared him to many readers. His concern for horses was shown by the fact he was a board member for both the California Equine Retirement Farm and Tranquility Farm.

Russell is also the author of  In the Shadows of Dark Horses, a racing mystery that is available online from

Russell is survived by his wife, Diane, and two sons, Jonathan and Tristan.