The good times continue for owner Ron Hartley and trainer John Cooper. One week after their star runner Moonist won the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Winter Championship, earning a berth to this year’s Champion of Champions in the process, Hartley’s My Favorite Check outdueled talented rivals Flay and Pedro Czcech to win Sunday’s $111,000 Los Alamitos Maiden Stakes.
With Tony Guymon in the irons, My Favorite Check was sixth at the start of the race, but he quickly got going as he caught up with early leaders Royal Rousing, Carters Way To Fly and Pedro Czcech. As the race continued, the gelding by Favorite Cartel began to take the lead, which he never relinquished as he won by a head in a 350-yard time of :17.759. With My Favorite Check finishing first and Flay holding off Pedro Czcech for second place, the stallion Favorite Cartel had the 1-2 finishers in this race. My Favorite Check’s career record is now three wins in four starts and the earnings of $46,620 for winning the Maiden Stakes pushed his career record to $59,300.
“All the credit goes to Mr. Cooper,” Hartley said. “(Track announcer and morning line maker) Ed Burgart told me a while back that he thought My Favorite Check was ahead of Moonist at the same point of the game. I raised My Favorite Check so that’s fun for us. He’s a little bit more nervous than Moonist and you can see that even in the post parade. We’ll see how he does from here.”
My Favorite Check has been so good that even in his only loss, which came in the trials to the Los Alamitos Maiden Stakes on January 31, it may not have been his fault.
“I cost him the race the last time,” said Cooper referring to the second place finish to Pedro Czcech in the trials. “I told (Guymon) to pull him off the inside. He kept cocking his head and it didn’t work. Then it was too late. That was my fault, but that’s okay. This horse has a lot of talent. He’s been good. He had a problem – it was a tibia - so we sent him home. We didn’t mess with him.”
And when My Favorite Check returned from his time off, Cooper was taken aback by the gelding’s size.
“He’s a pretty big horse,” said Cooper of the horse that is now affectionately known as ‘Big Boy’ around the barn. “I was real surprised by how much he had grown. He’s done well since his return. He tries to do things right. He was a little behind the other horses because he started so late, but he took to things pretty good. He’s in a couple of derbies this year.”
The Hartley-bred runner is eligible to run in the trials to the El Primero Del Ano Derby on March 13 and he’s also eligible to run in the Golden State Derby trials on August 7. Moonist won both of those derbies during his championship winning sophomore campaign in 2014. Moonist took home the title of AQHA champion 3-year-old and champion 3-year-old gelding that year.
For winning rider Tony Guymon, the Maiden Stakes might become his favorite Los Alamitos race, as he also won this race last year with Parsons Family Limited Partnership’s Energy Cartel.
“My Favorite Check is only going to get better,” Guymon said. “Mr. Cooper is patient with them. When he tells you they’re ready, you know they are. This was a close race and it ought to be. Flay is a super nice horse and we had to run to outrun him. My horse showed a lot of heart and a lot of guts.”
Paul Jones and Thompson Racing, Inc’s Flay earned $18,870 for finishing second. The Los Alamitos Super Derby and Southern California Derby are among the races that the Favorite Cartel colt is eligible for in 2016. Oscar Peinado aboard Flay for trainer Paul Jones. EG High Desert Farms’ Pedro Czcech earned $13,320 for running third for jockey Jesus Ayala and trainer Yanet Rodriguez. Royal Rousing, My Capullo, Carters Way To Fly, Girls On Fire, Dunright Corona, Jess Shining, and Hot Looker completed the field.