Ron and Jeryl Hartley’s Moonist became the first four-time derby winner at Los Alamitos Race Course after pulling away from seven rivals to the win the $166,000 PCQHRA Breeders Derby on Friday evening.
The son of Separatist added the Breeders Derby to his derby victories in the El Primero Del Ano Derby, Governor’s Cup Derby and Golden State Derby. Ridden by Cesar De Alba for trainer John Cooper, Moonist extended his winning to eight straight with his only loss in 10 starts this season coming in the Los Alamitos Winter Derby on February 15. Bred by Vessels Stallion Farm, Moonist was previously one of three horses to have wins in three of the nine current derbies at Los Alamitos. The other ones being his sire, the multiple champion Separatist, and the multiple champion filly Ah Sigh.
“I wanted him to win four derbies badly because Separatist had three,” said Cooper, who also trained the gray colt Separatist. “I wanted him to pass Separatist and not to denigrate what Separatist had done, but to show what Separatist had passed on to his son. Moonist is something else.”
Out of the 2001 champion 2-year-old filly Your First Moon, Moonist broke nicely from post number five following the scratches of Le Mishka Jess and Ms First Prize Rose. Moonist got bumped slightly on his rear end, but by then he was already on the lead and his lead grew with each stride. Pulling away in the late going, Moonist went to score a 1 ¾ length victory, matching the winning margin he posted in the Grade 1 Golden State Derby in his previous derby victory. His winning time in the Breeders Futurity was :19.71 for the 400-yard dash.
Cooper, who has been a mainstay at Los Alamitos, for over 40 years had his poker face before the race and a quiet smile after it.
“I wasn’t nervous before the race,” Cooper said. “But when they put them in the starting gate that’s when my heart started beating at a 100 mile per second. You never know what’s going to happen in the starting gate. You just hope that they get away cleanly. Cesar did a great job with the horse. He fits Moonist like a glove.”
“He got bumped a little bit leaving there,” De Alba said. “The other horses felt a little close to us early one, too close for comfort. I had not been using the whip in the last couple of starts, but tonight I tapped him twice. He was running comfortable and cruising out there. This feeling is a bit surreal. Sometimes you take things for granted and days come and go. Then you get on a horse like Moonist and things change. It’s an amazing feeling. He’s such a pro. He warmed up like he always does. In the gate you start to worry because he’s so quiet and calm. I start fearing that he’s going to fall asleep in there. Then the gates open and he takes off.”
Hartley has been in Quarter Horse racing since the early 1960s, first helping his father with the training of horse, then training horses on his own starting at the age of 21 at the 1961 Fresno Fair, and eventually working as a racing official and later a racing steward. Now, Hartley is a race horse owner enjoying the time of his life with Moonist.
“Everyone is asking me if Moonist is going to run in the Champion of Champions,” Hartley said. “You know, we have been paid up to one more derby and that’s the Southern California Derby. I think sticking with your age group is not a bad idea. It’s been working so far. The Los Alamitos Winter Championship comes around quickly at the start of 2015 so that’s a nice goal. I was talking to Dr. Ed Allred earlier today and I told him that we would try with Moonist for Champion of Champions next year. He’ll be back. He’s just winning right now and I think his groom deserves a lot of credit as well.”
Cooper couldn’t agree more with everything that Hartley said in the paragraph above.
“Tubercio Argueta,” Cooper began. “That’s Moonist’s groom. I call him T-bo and let me tell you he’s at the barn working hard when everyone else in gone. He’s been with me for a while now and before that he worked for trainer Charlie Bloomquist. Tubercio is a hard worker.
“The Southern California Derby trials is where I’d like to see Moonist run in his next start,” Cooper said. “I’ll keep him here in the barn. He thrives on being here. He’s happy. When you turn out a horse you never know how they’ll come back. I remember a horse I trained named Aladuino and he won a lot of races at Los Alamitos. I sent him home and he stopped eating. He wouldn’t eat. We brought him back to the barn and when we got him out of the trailer he nickered all the way to his stall. That’s the place he called home.”
Moonist earned $65,520 for the win to take his career earnings to $449,918. He’s won 13 of 20 career starts.
Reese Farms Quarter Horses LLC’s RF One Famous Okey broke nicely from post seven and continued throughout to earn second place money of $26,520. Racing in the Intermountain region as a 2-year-old and during his 3-year-old campaign prior the Breeders Derby trial, RF One Famous Okey entered the Breeders final with career earnings of $9,375. The homebred filly by One Famous Eagle was saddle by trainer Paul Jones and ridden by Eduardo Nicasio.
Vessels Stallion Farm LLC’s Dynasty Of Habits posted her best finish in a derby this year when crossing the wire in third place in this event. The FDD Dynasty filly had previously shared the starting gate in a derby final with Moonist in the Los Alamitos Winter Derby and Governor’s Cup Derby. She also competed in the La Primera Del Ano Derby. Saddled by Cody Joiner and ridden by Cruz Mendez, Dynasty of Habits earned $18,720. Volcoms Delight, The Ocean King, All Guns Firing, Look Of A Dasher and Smoothe Movin Chic completed the field.