Ron Hartley’s four-time champion Moonist was simply awesome in his first start since winning the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Winter Championship on February 14 with a totally convincing victory over a classy field in Friday’s $18,000 allowance feature at Los Alamitos.
Ridden by Cesar De Alba for trainer John Cooper, Moonist led by daylight practically every step of the 350-yard race on the way to a 2 ¼ length win over 2015 Ruidoso Derby winner BF Farm Boss. Moonist covered the distance in :17.466 while posting his 23rd win in 33 career starts. The 5-year-old Separatist gelding earned $9,900 for the win to take his lifetime earnings to $874,068.
Cooper, who a week ago saddled Hartley’s One Proud Eagle to victory in the Kindergarten Futurity, had a quiet smile walking into the winner’s circle after Moonist’s powerful win.
“He’s ready now,” Cooper said.
The trainer was referring to the next race on Moonist’s schedule – the trials to the Grade 1 Vessels Maturity on Sunday, June 12. Cooper had been eager to start his superstar prior to the trials.
“This was his prep for the trials,” the trainer said. “I was going to have to work him before the trials, but this is better. You can work a horse a hundred times, but it’s still not as good as a race. We’ll bring him along easy to the race now. We’ll just pony him. No jockey needed. We’ll just take it easy. This got him ready.”
Moonist won four derbies during his sophomore campaign in 2014 and as an older horse he’s won the Go Man Go Handicap, Spencer Childers California Breeders Championship Handicap, Robert Boniface Los Alamitos Invitational Championship, and the Los Alamitos Winter Championship. There are three big races for older horses left for him to conquer – the Vessels Maturity, the Bank of America Challenge Championship, and the Champion of Champions. All three of those races will be held at Los Alamitos this year and could be part of his schedule in 2016.
As for De Alba, he felt like he was seating on a Cadillac on Friday night.
“Moonist is nice,” De Alba said. “He run awesome. He stumbled a tiny little bit at the start. I hit two or three times just so that he wouldn’t forget what it was all about. He had not raced in a while. We got the next race, but he ran great. He pulled away like he always does. He ran great.”
The win also helps Moonist strengthen his status as the number one ranked Quarter Horse in the nation in the AQHA Racing-Horseplayernow.com National Poll. The gelding received 103 points out of a possible 110 points in the most recent poll and this effort figures to keep at the top of the poll.
Don and Peggy Boyle’s BF Farm Boss, which was making his first start since August 23, 2015, ran a solid second in this race. The 4-year-old stallion by Hawkinson finished strongly after a slow start and figures to be a major player in the upcoming races for older horses this year. Ridden by Jesus Rios Ayala for trainer Paul Jones, BF Farm Boss earned $4,050 for finishing second. Bobby Cox’s Count De Monet, third in the 2014 Heritage Place Futurity, finished a neck behind BF Farm Boss for third place. Stanley Watkins’ Jiffy James, a multiple major stakes finalist here, ran fourth, while Paul Blanchard’s Glock, second in last year’s Ruidoso Derby, completed the field.