S-Quarter K LLC’s Heza Dasha Fire finished strongly to win the Grade 1, $859,400 Los Alamitos Super Derby on Saturday night to secure Quarter Horse racing’s dream matchup of 2015, a meeting between him and the 11-time stakes winner Moonist in the Grade 1, $600,000 Champion of Champions to be held here on Saturday, December 12.
The first ever meeting between the super sophomore Heza Dasha Fire and the older superstar Moonist will bring together the horse that many believe is the best 3-year-old in the country against the top 4-year-old and the number one ranked Quarter Horse in the nation. The title of Quarter Horse racing’s World Champion could also be on the line, as Heza Dasha Fire improved to a perfect four for four in 2015 with wins in the Super Derby and Golden State Derby, while the outstanding Moonist will bring a resume that includes victories this year in the Grade 1 Robert Boniface Los Alamitos Invitational Championship, the Grade 1 Go Man Go Handicap, and the Restricted Grade 1 Spencer Childers California Breeders Championship Handicap.
Heza Dasha Fire and Moonist’s presence in the Champion of Champions also means an encounter between last year’s AQHA champion 2-year-old gelding and last year’s champion 3-year-old gelding, and since they’re both geldings this could be the start of a great rivalry. With Moonist having already earned his Champion of Champions berth by winning the Go Man Go and then the Los Alamitos Championship, Heza Dasha Fire came through with a solid effort in the Super Derby. Ridden by Cruz Mendez from post number seven for trainer Jose Flores, Heza Dasha Fire was second at the start, trailing only eventual runner-up Sass Me Blue, before pulling away to a length victory while covering the 400-yard Super Derby in a time of :19.462. The gelding by Walk Thru Fire earned $344,148 for the win to take his career earnings to $1,389,388. He has won 10 of 11 career starts.
“We’ve been talking about the Champion of Champions since (Heza Dasha Fire) came back this season, but at the time there was a lot of water to get through before we got to that shore,” said Don Meneely of S-Quarter K LLC. “Now he’s there and he’ll be facing a field with the outstanding Moonist and Far Niente is great. The horses in that race are the best and it’ll be great. It’s a delight to be in the Champion of Champions. I wouldn’t trade our horse for anything, but I’m sure the other owners wouldn’t either. It’s exhilarating and amazing to watch Heza Dasha Fire run. If we can keep him healthy and avoid bad luck, it will be great to watch him in the Champion of Champions.”
In the Champion of Champions, Heza Dasha Fire will race 440 yards for the first time in his career. He’ll face older horses for the first time as well.
“He’s never run 440 yards so that’s a question mark,” the owner added. “Based on what he showed tonight, you have to believe that 440 will suit him, but that’s why they load them in the gate.”
Mendez never touched Heza Dasha Fire during the running of the Super Derby.
“He’s a great horse,” Mendez said. “He didn’t break that great, but he finished great. It was a good race for Heza Dasha Fire. I was very confident in him because after win in the trials he looked like the one to beat. He always gives me what he’s got. I wasn’t nervous at all because of that reason. I like it that the Champion of Champions is at 440 yards. I think the horse will like it too. He finished great tonight. I haven’t asked him for his all yet. I didn’t push him at all today. I just urged with my hands a little bit. It’s going to be great to face Moonist. I can’t wait for the Champion of Champions.”
“He can’t break like he did tonight and beat Moonist,” owner Kathy Meneely added.
“Moonist is no joke,” Flores agreed.
“It was good to see that when (Heza Dasha Fire) has competition that he bears down and goes for it,” Kathy Meneely continued.
Flores will now work on putting together the training schedule for Heza Dasha Fire heading into the Champion of Champions.
“We’ll give him a little break, a couple of weeks off,” Flores said. “We’ll come up with a game plan. We’ll have to work him before the Champion of Champions. Hopefully it’ll be a good one. I can’t be an easy work. It has to be a good one. Heza Dasha Fire has never gone 440 yards, but I think he’ll be fine. He’ll also be almost 4-years-old by the night of the Champion of Champions.”
Ridden by Cody Jensen for trainer Mike Casselman, Lucky Seven Ranch’s Sass Me Blue earned $139,298 for running second in the Super Derby. The filly by Valiant Hero out of Jess Sass Me has finished in the top three seven of eight career starts.
“She ran awesome,” Jensen said. “You can’t hang your head when you run second versus a horse like Heza Dasha Fire. Running second it’s almost like winning the race. She’s one of the few to be in the picture at the wire in a race won by Heza Dasha Fire.”
Dutch Masters III and Jaime Gomez’s Forget It earned $98,328 for running third in the Super Derby. The two-time derby winner has finished in the top three in 13 of 14 career outings. Carlos Huerta piloted the Foose gelding.
“No excuses,” Gomez said. “Forget It ran a great race. Heza Dasha Fire is just super tough.”
Ed Allred’s Take A Look finished fourth and was followed across the wire by Kickin Your Can, He Is The Risingstar, Chicanery, Tallulah Moon, and Run By You.
The early Pick Four pool on Saturday night was $173,339, the second highest Pick Four pool ever at Los Alamitos. Saturday’s pool was less than $5,000 away from the track’s all-time record Pick Four pool of $178,248 set on Sunday, May 3, 2015. The late Pick 4 pool was a solid $116,795. The combined handle in the two Pick Fours on Saturday was $290,134, also the second highest combined total ever at the Cypress track.