Year Inducted: 2012
Thomas Dearmond “Dee” Raper, has given a lifetime of devotion to the Oklahoma Quarter Horse racing industry and Oklahoma. A native of Milburn, Oklahoma, Dee Raper was always around horses and his journey into racing actually got started with his occupation of hauling horses.
In time, Raper’s education about horses and racing led him to purchase a farm in Yukon, Oklahoma where he began to immerse himself in a total involvement in the business of horse racing. Working alongside his wife Betty, the operation was next in Lexington, Oklahoma before finally relocating in the early 1990s to the 10-Mile Flat Area of west Norman, Oklahoma. Named after a lake near the Lexington farm site, Belle Mere Farm sits on over 300 acres and has been a major influence for both Oklahoma racing and horse racing in general.
Working alongside his wife Betty, Dee and Belle Mere Farm began building relationships with many influential horsemen and they were awarded the opportunity to stand the legendary Easy Jet for a season in 1985. The responsibility and notoriety of managing one of the biggest stallions in American Quarter Horse Racing history earned Raper additional respect among his peers.
At the time of starting Belle Mere, horse racing in Oklahoma was not a pari-mutuel business, meaning if you had a talented horse and wanted to compete for any fame and fortune, you had to take your runner to a state where the sport was accepted and wagering dollars helped fund the activity. Raper became involved in the drive to make Oklahoma a pari-mutuel racing state, serving as the coordinator for the movement in Cleveland County. After years of hard work, the campaign to bring pari-mutuel horse racing to Oklahoma was approved by a vote of the people in 1983. The first races where wagers could be accepted took place the following year at Blue Ribbon Downs in Sallisaw, Oklahoma.
Raper continued his administrative involvement in the Oklahoma horse racing industry by serving as the president of the Oklahoma Quarter Horse Racing Association, for 14 years! As a leader for Oklahoma horsemen, he was influential in getting additional revenue streams going for racing in the state. Among the initiatives either passed by the state legislature or voted through by the people during Raper’s executive years: Full-Card simulcasting, allowing racetracks to offer televised racing from other states; and Casino Gaming implementation at the state’s racetracks.
While the business of racing for Oklahoma improved, so did the success of Belle Mere Farm and their line of prominent stallions, led by Bully Bullion. The 1988 American Quarter Horse Association Champion Aged Stallion, Bully Bullion earned over $225,000 in his career on the track and has been an extreme force at stud, counting champions on the track and in the arena, among his progeny.
Belle Mere stallion Mr Eye Opener has held his own for the operation, producing his share of AQHA champions including 2000 All American Futurity winner and Champion 2-year-old Eyesa Special, among many others.
The racing pride and joy of Dee and Betty Raper, Eye Yin You, is a direct product of the two aforementioned stallions. The homebred by Mr Eye Opener from the Bully Bullion mare Take After Me, pulled off an unprecedented racing feat at Remington Park. He is the only horse to win both the Remington Park Futurity and then the Remington Park Derby, achieving the illusive double in 2004 and 2005 respectively.
Respected for his contributions to the sport beyond the boundaries of Oklahoma, Raper was honored by the AQHA in 2007 with the Gordon Crone Special Achievement Award. In 2010, Raper was inducted to the Oklahoma Quarter Horse Association Hall of Fame.