Like father, like son. Ron Hartley’s Moonist became a three-time derby winner this season following a tremendous daylight victory in the Grade 1 $227,600 Golden State Derby on Sunday at Los Alamitos. Moonist’s derby triple matched the accomplishment of his sire, Separatist, who won three major derbies at Los Alamitos during the 2000 season.
Moonist’s derby wins have come in the El Primero Del Ano Derby, Governor’s Cup Derby and now the Golden State. Separatist won the Governor’s Cup and Golden State and also added the PCQHRA Breeders Derby. Under the tutelage of trainer John Cooper, the gray colt won eight of 11 starts during his tremendous sophomore campaign. Cooper also trains Moonist and under his watch the bay gelding has already won seven of eight starts this year including his last six in a row. Moonist has been so impressive during his winning streak that Cooper is okay comparing Moonist and Separatist.
“He’s as good as his daddy was,” Cooper said. “I know that it’s a different time and different rivals, but I think Moonist is comparable to Separatist. In two jumps Separatist could daylight a horse. Moonist can’t do that, but he’s got it at the end of races. He can do that; he can finish a race pretty good. He’s now matched his daddy’s record for derby wins.”
Ridden by Cesar De Alba from the outside post 10, Moonist covered the 400 yards in :19.348 to give him the meet’s fastest time at this distance. Out of Los Alamitos Million Futurity winner Your First Moon, The Vessels Stallion Farm-bred runner separated himself from the field in the final 200 yards on the way to posting an easy 1 ¾ length victory over runner-up A Corona Sunset.
“This horse is just getting better and better,” De Alba said. “He’s all business. He’s so professional now the moment he comes to the paddock. He’s like a pony. When he’s in the gate I start thinking that he’s asleep and that he’s not going to break because he’s so quiet. But then he takes off. In this race at around the 300 yards he took off. He’s a different horse. He’s very special.”
Cooper, who also trained sophomore champion Chingaderos in the mid 1980s, knows a good horse when he sees one. Moonist has certainly caught his eye.
“I think he can run with anyone right now,” he said. “He’s still in two derbies at Los Alamitos – the PCQHRA Breeders in three weeks and the Southern California Derby later in the year. I know that in the Breeders Derby there’ll be fresh horses that have been waiting for this race. We’ll see how Moonist pull up. Some horses are like human athletes in that they get better the more they work. People believe that when your horse is hot, you run him. I’ll let Moonist tell me if he wants to run one more or if he needs a break.”
Cooper was not excited about the prospects of Moonist starting from the outside post 10, but Hartley didn’t seem to mind.
“When I first came to Los Alamitos in the 1960s, people were begging to start from the 10-hole,” he said. “Everyone wanted the 10 post. I would beg for it. I love the spot and I think it was perfect for Moonist.”
Moonist’s stylish way of winning will have people asking his connections if they’ll go after the Champion of Champions.
“I get nervous just thinking about it,” Hartley said. “I don’t know, I’ll let Mr. Cooper tell me what to do. I waited a long time for my first derby, so I’m thrilled with what this horse has done. He’s in two more derbies and we’ll see how he pulls up. I think that if you stay running with your age group then you are better off, but (he might be able) to run with the older horses.
“I’ll get a few calls tomorrow morning about the race,” Hartley continued. “My daughters Dayna and Lynette will be happy. Dayna used to take care of the horses in Hemet before we moved them to Firth Ranch. I’ll go in to the office tomorrow, but they’re the ones that run the business. We do property management. We have rentals. I’ll get a call from Vessels Stallion Farm tomorrow morning. They don’t miss calling me after he runs. They’re happy for me and they’re happy because they have a half-sister to Moonist in the Los Alamitos Equine Sale. She’s by Carters Cartel and I’ll definitely look at her.”
Moonist earned $95,592 to take his career earnings to $391,098.He’s won 11 of 18 career starts.
John Haagsma and World Champion Racing Stables LLC’s A Corona Sunset earned $38,692 for finishing second. The Corona Cartel gelding was third in last year’s Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity and also competed in the Golden State Million Futurity. He’s earned $308,536 in 10 starts. Eduardo Nicasio piloted the Abigail Kawananakoa-bred runner for trainer Eloy Navarro.
World Champion Racing’s Dimes And Nicks, who was the fastest qualifier, finished in third place. Also saddled by Navarro, the Azoom gelding earned $27,312. The amount more than doubled his lifetime bankroll. He’s now earned $48,584.Look Of A Dasher, Dont Walk Peacefully, Kokomo Beach, Foose Is Loose, Another Oatie, Solid Connection, and Mistic Rose completed the field.
It’s been a season of superstar 3-year-olds at Los Alamitos Race Course in 2014. The Orange County oval is the home base of Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner California Chrome and earlier this year it hosted the inaugural running of the $500,000 Los Alamitos Derby for Thoroughbreds, which was won by Eclipse Award winner Shared Belief. Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer for an ownership group headed by sports media personality Jim Rome, Shared Belief won the Pacific Classic at Del Mar on Sunday afternoon. Add Moonist to the list of great 3-year-olds with a connection to the Los Alamitos.