Ron and Jeryl Hartley’s Moonist, a two-time AQHA champion last year, began a new winning streak after scoring a solid ¾ length victory over Scott Lewis Handicap winner Well And Good in the $20,000 Katellla Handicap on Sunday at Los Alamitos.
Ridden by Cesar De Alba for trainer John Cooper, Moonist won nine races in a row between March 16, 2014 and January 25, 2015 before his bid for a 10th straight victory was spoiled by the millionaire champion Matabarist in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Winter Championship on February 15. Leaving the gate from post number one, Moonist returned to the winner’s circle thanks to this blue-collar effort in the Katella at 350 yards. Now a winner of 15 of 23 career starts, the Separatist gelding covered the 350 yards in the meet’s fastest time of :17.484. Moonist has won 13 of his last 16 starts.
“He had a little bobble a few steps out of the gate and when I saw that my heart just started beating fast,” Ron Hartley said. “Then I saw that Cesar started asking him to run and the horse responded. It was great to see. The horse just took off from there. He’s a once in a lifetime type of a horse.”
“He wanted to go out,” De Alba said. “I had a hold of him, but I had to let him drift a little bit to let him run. He was looking for the competition. It was a good race back.”
Moonist became the first horse to win four derbies at Los Alamitos last season after taking the El Primero Del Ano Derby, Governor’s Cup Derby, Golden State Derby, and PCQHRA Breeders Derby in 2014. For his tremendous campaign, he was voted the AQHA champion 3-year-old and champion 3-year-old gelding. The PCQHRA also honored him as California’s Horse of the Year and top 3-year-old gelding.
“Horses like this don’t come along very often,” Cooper said.
The $11,000 first place share of the Katella purse moved Moonist’s career earnings over the half-million mark. Out of the champion Your First Moon, Monist has now earned $503,084 in his outstanding career.
“(Moonist) was looking for the competition
“We were going to have to work him or we could run him,” Hartley added.” He was feeling pretty good so we said ‘let’s run.’ We’re now pointing him to the trials to the Vessels Maturity (on June 14). “
“He came up to this race in good form,” Cooper continued. “There are only so many races in a horse, just like there are only so many fights in a man, but if we didn’t run him now and waited until it was closer (to the Vessels trials) and something was to happen, then we couldn’t run him.”
The Vessels Maturity final will be held on Sunday, July 5 and it offers a starting berth to the prestigious Grade 1, $500,000 Champion of Champions at Los Alamitos.
Ed Allred’s Well And Good, the winner of the Scott Lewis at 550 yards, finished strongly to outduel Cypress Handicap winner Unchangeable for second place. Ridden by Carlos Huerta for trainer Scott Willoughby, Well And Good earned $4,500 in the Katella. He’s now earned $94,159 in his 15-race career. Ron and Ronnie Keller’s Unchangeable earned $2,500 for third place. Another Storm and New Look completed the field.