John Cooper has lots of great memories of his days working with the great jockey Robert Adair.
“We ended up winning the Champion of Champions together,” said Cooper referring to that magical night in 1979 when Adair piloted the longshot Mr Doty Bars to victory. “And when he win the race he came back and said ‘You know what John, the other guys can’t ride.’ I can still see him saying that. They didn’t call him The Master for nothing, I can tell you that. He’d get on a horse and when he would come back he’d say ‘Hey, this feels a little funny. He’d be right. He was a horseman.’”
Cooper, one of the great Quarter Horse trainers in the history of Los Alamitos, has been rather masterful himself as well over the past few years. He has guided Ron Hartley’s champion Moonist to a tremendous career that has included 12 stakes wins at Los Alamitos and now he’s helped the veteran owner enjoy his first major futurity after saddling the homebred and fastest qualifier One Proud Eagle to victory in the Robert Adair Kindergarten Futurity on Sunday at Los Alamitos.
The Kindergarten, of course, has been a marquee race at the Orange County oval since 1955, but the race was renamed the Robert Adair Kindergarten for this year in honor of the legendary jockey, who passed away in 2015. The purse for this year’s Robert Adair Kindergarten was $428,400, the highest for this race since 1987. While Hartley was enjoying his first ever major futurity win, Cooper was picking up his first ever Kindergarten win. He should have known that this win was coming. After all, One Proud Eagle’s jockey, Tony Guymon, told him so after the first time that he worked the gelding by One Famous Eagle during the morning works.
“Second time I qualified One Proud Eagle, Tony was on him and worked him right next to American Force, a 2-year-old that we really like,” Cooper explained. “One Proud Eagle worked right beside American Force. He didn’t beat him, but he ran right beside him. When they came back Tony said ‘I’ll win the Kindergarten with this one.’ I said ‘Sure you will.’”
Guymon, who has won some major races like the 2007 Rainbow Futurity with Wild Six and this year’s Los Alamitos Winter Derby, knew he was sitting on a good one right from the start.
“The first time I was on him, I knew after the first 100 yards,” Guymon said. “There was no doubt that he was a top horse. He had a little of a rough go in his first time out, he got bumped around, but still kept fighting. He ran great in the trials and in the final, he just took off. I may have seen another horse in my peripheral for a few jumps, but that was it. I was a little worried that another horse would be coming, but he just kept giving me another gear and just kept going faster.”
In the end, One Proud Eagle crossed the wire a length ahead of second fastest qualifier and slight favorite Chazaq. One Proud Eagle covered the 300 yards in :15.353 to earn $179,928 for the win. Now a winner of two of three career starts, One Proud Eagle has now earned $183,064.
“I’ve never nominated a horse to the Kindergarten before,” Hartley said. “I nominated two horse for the race this year and what do you know, they both made it to the final. We’re doing well right now with our horses, but it’s been a long haul. John Firth does a nice job with our horses at his ranch. That’s where One Proud Eagle grew up. When they come to the track, they’re ready to run.”
Sired by One Famous Eagle and out the Raise A Secret mare Guy Chasing, One Proud Eagle is from the family of multiple derby winners Separatist, Girl Secrets, and Forget It, plus stakes winner Forgive Him, Waymaker, Bridlewood, and more top horses. One Proud Eagle is eligible to run in the trials to the PCQHRA Breeders Futurity in the fall. He could also see action in one of the stakes races for 2-year-olds on California Breeders Champions Night.
Dutch Masters III’s Chazaq earned $72,828 for finishing in second place. The gelding by Corona Cartel crossed the wire a half-length ahead of third place finisher Three Six On Fire V. Jaime Gomez, a seven-time winner of the Kindergarten, saddled Chazaq, which was ridden by four-time Kindergarten winner Alejandro Luna. Jose Flores, a three-time Kindergarten winner, saddled the aforementioned Three Six On Fire V, which was ridden by two-time Kindergarten winner Cruz Mendez. Owned by Jose Ivan Muniz, Three Six On Fire V earned $51,408 for running third.
Rivera Quarter Horse Racing, Inc. and Aislinn Vences’ Stel A Wish finished in fourth place and was followed across the wire by Katella Deli, Brimmin Corona, Stelfast, Paint A Candy Storm, Jess A Chick Magnet, and Ur My Princess. Dutch Masters III and Paul Blanchard campaign Katella Deli, while Hartley is also the owner of Jess A Chick Magnet.
Around 40 members of the Adair family were on hand at Los Alamitos to enjoy the first running of the Robert Adair Kindergarten Futurity. In the winner’s circle presenting the trophy and the blanket were Robert’s wife, Linda, and their daughter, Julie, and her husband, Jack. Adair’s brothers, Buddy and Rod, and Rod’s wife, Dana, were also part of the winner’s circle presentation.