Ranch Horses

Shue Fly – “The Greatest Quarter Horse”


The horse that Jo Flieger calls “the greatest Quarter Horse that ever stuck a nose under a wire”—Shue Fly.

I have heard the “oldtimers” brag about Possum—that famous running Quarter Horse of bygone days who was “tops” down in east Texas. His blood is to be found in most of the really good Quarter Horses we have today. Also Peter McCue, who has a world of supporters, as the greatest of the great. Not being an “oldtimer,” I can’t testify about the greatness of those earlier Quarter Horses, but I will, if I live long enough, be able to tell a great deal about what I believe to be the greatest Quarter Horse that ever stuck a nose under a wire.

Shue Fly
Elmer Hepfer and the horse that Jo Flieger calls “the greatest Quarter Horse that ever stuck a nose under a wire”-Shue Fly.

I am referring to Shue Fly, belonging to the Hepler brothers, Charles and Elmer, of Carlsbad, New Mexico. Now I had to see this mare run to believe that any horse could come from behind and catch Clabber. Well, I—and some of my friends—found out the hard way by losing several dollars on a match race at Phoenix three years ago, when Clabber was in his prime. Not being satisfied, we tried again, with the same result. That made a “believer” out of me. I’ve been on Shue Fly’s bandwagon ever since. She has been beaten a time or two but not when the chips were down.*

I journeyed all the way to Brady, Texas, when we heard out here in Arizona that Shue Flv and the Pride of Louisiana were going to run a match race at Brady Fourth of July. After I got there, it turned out that the Louisiana mare would run for $5,000, provided Shue Fly would come there to run.

The Heplers decided that was too far away. That coming fall, however, these two great mares met for the first time at the Eagle Pass Quarter Horse Races. The race resulted in a “deadheat.” That got a lot of horsemen to thinking that the Louisiana mare could beat Shue Fly. At Albuquerque, New Mexico, last fall they came together again-Shue Fly winning safely. Shue Fly has fooled a lot of the wise boys by not beating her opponents too far—just far enough to win. That keeps them trying to beat her. She seems to “string” them along, as it were, by letting them look like they were going to win. Then on the last few yards she turns on that “spine-tingling” burst of speed that leaves her opponents beaten and the spectators thrilled to the core.

After Albuquerque they went again to Eagle Pass, Texas. Rosita won. I wasn’t there so I can’t say how it happened. All “champs” have “off days.” But I do know when they met February 6 on a neutral track in Arizona, Shue Fly left no doubts about her being the world’s champion Quarter mare. They were in the gates a long time-then here they came-Rosita a length in the lead and she stayed that way right up to the last hundred yards with the crowd yelling and going “hay-wire” with excitement. Shue Fly lived up to her name. She turned on that last burst of speed for which she is famous and slipped under the wire—first.

This wonderful mare has held the title of “World Champion Quarter Mare” for three years-truly a magnificent record, considering that she meets all “comers” in match on purse races, and her owners are always willing to give any man that thinks he has a horse that can outrun her a chance to prove it. They bar no horse, regardless of breed or color.

Shue Fly is by Con-Boy, by Buck Thomas, by Peter McCue—out of Lady Luck, by Booger Red-out of a Thoroughbred mare. She was bred by Floyd Miller, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Shue Fly Racing
Shue Fly winning the Quarter championship lost year. Red Man, who took third, trails by threequarters of o length. Clobber, who was second, is not in the picture.

I saw this mare, running against Clabber, Nobody’s Friend and Joe Tom, over-reach and go to her knees and come on to win in 22.3-gates set on the line.

At Albuquerque in 1942, she won the quarter in 21.4 seconds from a regulation flagged start. Shue Fly is a very pretty animal—well-formed and straight sound legs.

To make her triumphs complete, M. G. Michaelis of Eagle Pass, Texas, owner of Rosita, challenged Shue Fly to a match race at 50 yards. 

Hepler Bros. accepted. A lot of race-horse men shook their heads because Rosita had led Shue Fly that far in the Champion Quarter the Sunday before. It looked like a “toss up” for the winner, but I believe Shue Fly has more racing sense than people give her credit for. She knows where that wire is and when about fifty yards from it she just seems to have that extra something that puts her under it—in front.

It’s that extra “something” you find in all great champions—men or horses.

After those last two performances, Shue Fly left no doubt in anybody’s mind as to her greatness as a Short Horse champion. It would be very interesting and a great crowd puller to see this great mare pitted against a really great sprinting Thoroughbred for a quarter mile race—say to be run on the new race track in El Paso this summer or at Albuquerque next fall. I, for one, would be there.

I do know I can in future years, when there are new champions running, rear back and say, “Well men, I know your horses are good but, boy, you ought to have seen Shue Fly fly!”

* EDITOR’S NOTE: A San Francisco Chronicle sports columnist stated on March 24: ” Backing up the belief that Southwestern cowmen like to back their horses with bucks, Floyd (Skipper) Rigdon of the Carlsbad, N.M., Argus, wires that his townsmen, Elmer and Charley Hepler, have $10,000 that says their champion Quarter mare, Shue Fly, can beat any horse in the world in a quarter mile race. Shue Fly once sprinted a quarter in 21.25 seconds. And as an added attraction, Joe Welch of Carlsbad and Nogales, Ariz., challenges any cowboy to a $1,000 roping and bulldogging contest … This corner will guarantee only that no member of the Jockey Club set will accept either challenge.”

In the Western Horseman book, Legends: Volume 1, Melville Haskille is quoted: “No defeat can ever take away the glory the Shue Fly won during her many years of competition on the quarter track. Running only against the top short horses in America, she beat every horse who ever defeated her on a recognized track right up until her last race (which she lost to Miss Princess). She had the great heart and proud courage of a true champion, and won most of her races the hard way—come from behind in a dazzling burst of speed to catch her competition at the wire.” 

This article was originally published in the May-June 1944 issue of Western Horseman.

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