LARC NEWS Posted: 1/28/2020 5:11:15 PM


             Ron Hartley, who campaigned four-time AQHA champion gelding Moonist and 2019 champion 2-year-old filly Cartel Jess Rockin, and was a fixture in California racing since 1955 - from groom to racing official and from racing steward to major Quarter Horse owner and breeder - passed away on Monday night following health complications. Hartley was 81-years-old.

Hartley was highly respected figure in racing and a leader in the Quarter Horse racing industry. He was a member of the Pacific Coast Quarter Horse Breeders Association Board of Directors and served on the association’s awards committee. He also served as an officer with the American Quarter Horse Association. Hartley was recognized with the 2005 Frank Vessels Sr. Memorial Award, presented annually to an individual in appreciation for an outstanding contribution to the sport of Quarter Horse racing, and on Thursday, January 23 he was recognized with the 2019 PCQHRA owner special achievement award on Thursday.

“Ron was such a dedicated board member and absolutely loved the horses,” said Vince Genco, president of the PCQHRA. “He would do anything to help the sport and the Quarter Horse industry in California. He was dedicated to the people involved with the horses at Los Alamitos Race Course. He had this jacket with Verdugo/Genco logo that he always liked to wear for big races. He called it his lucky jacket. We had a lot of fun with that whenever he would wear the jacket. We had a luck of fun whenever we went to industry conventions. He was a fun person to be around and a great person to talk about Quarter Horse racing. We’re going to miss him a lot.”

Born in Toronto, Canada on March 1, 1938, Hartley grew up attending Dufferin Park and Woodbine Racetrack. His father, Nick Hartley, was a well-known jockey in Canada's fair circuit. Hartley’s father would then train and own racehorses at tracks like Hamilton near Niagara Falls and in the winter go to racetracks in Florida and Louisiana. As a boy, Hartley would go with his dad every day to his barn at Dufferin Park and the family would often travel together around the country with Nick’s race horses. In California, Nick Hartley ran horses at Santa Anita, Hollywood Park, Golden Gate, and Bay Meadows. Regardless of the where, Hartley was there with his father, at the family’s barn as often as possible.

After the family settled in California, Hartley became licensed to work in the backside as a groom in 1955. Working at the track became Hartley's summer vacation tradition walking hots and rubbing saddle ponies at Del Mar.   Not too long after graduating from Montebello High School, Hartley dove head first into racing in 1957 by having his trainer’s license and then buying some horses with his father as partner.  At the age of 19, he was one of youngest trainers in the southern California circuit. He had a string of six horses at Caliente Race Track and won at least one race each week. While there, he met John Alessio, father of longtime PCQHRA President Dominic ‘Bud’ Alessio. He would marry his high school sweetheart and love of his life, Jeryl, and the two became inseparable.

            After spending time at Caliente, Hartley got his first job working for the racetrack on the backside at Hollywood Park. He was a mail clerk in charge of delivering correspondence to horsemen stabled at the Inglewood track. He would later work in the racing office at Fairplex Park in Pomona, and also at Santa Anita as a clerk of scale, patrol judge and paddock judge. Ed Burke, who ran the racing office at Los Alamitos Race Course, offered Hartley a position at the Orange County track in 1962. Hartley jumped at the opportunity and remained at Los Alamitos for 18 years, first as an entry clerk, checking the grades of the horses - the AAA, AA, A, B+, etc. and then after many years of learning from Burke and racing secretary Curly Smith, Hartley became the racing secretary at Fresno in the 1970s. He also put together the Quarter Horse races at Fairplex Park in Pomona.  Hartley also spent time working the Los Alamitos Quarter Horse meets as a racing steward. 

            Hartley would later serve as racing secretary for Spencer Childers, Robert L. Boniface and Dr. Ed Allred for the meet that the Horsemen's Quarter Horse Racing Association conducted at Bay Meadows in 1987 and 1988. He also served as the racing secretary for the Orange County Fair. It was at around this time that Hartley came across an opportunity that was too good to pass up.      

            "My father in law had a real estate office and he looked after the Riverside and Temecula area,” Hartley said. “There was nothing there. No stop signs, no stop lights, not even a restaurant, but he kept buying property. He called me one day and said 'you're going to buy this property,' so I did. I ended up managing the property and things grew from there.”

            Hartley stepped back from the various tasks as a racing official and established a property management company. He would eventually own shopping centers and various real estate properties. In 1990, Dale Badon invited Hartley to Dr. Allred's production sale. At the sale, Blane Schvaneveldt came up to Hartley, reached in his pocket and handed him a ticket. “If you want a horse, this is a good one to buy,” Schvaneveldt told Hartley. 

“I bought her and first time she ran we won,” Hartley said. “Blane trained her for me. The filly’s name was Joy Of Six."

            Hartley fell in love with owning Quarter Horses right away. He would go on to breed Joy Of Six to Chicks Beduino every year with some nice success. He would race a few horses each year and would eventually move his stock to the barn of trainer John Cooper. In 2013, Hartley and Cooper had some success with in stakes trials with a filly named Forgotten Dynasty and a gelding named Moonist. She who would run fourth in the Grade 2 La Primera Del Año Derby while also qualifying to the Los Ala                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                mitos Maiden Stakes. It was Moonist who showed glimpses of greatness, running second in the Governor’s Cup Futurity and later winning the Golden State Juvenile Invitational and Los Alamitos Juvenile Invitational both at 400 yards. In 2014, the Separatist gelding bred by Vessels Stallion Farms began to give Hartley his greatest thrills in racing.

Under Cooper’s guidance, Moonist set a track record with four derby victories, including a win in the Grade 2 Golden State Derby. The following year, he won the Grade 1 Robert Boniface Los Alamitos Invitational Championship and Grade 1 Go Man Go Handicap and was second in the Grade 1 Champion of Champions. He would then win his first four starts of 2016, before the gelding succumbed to colic. Moonist won 12 stakes races at Los Alamitos, 24 races and earned $878,468 in his career. He was named AQHA champion 3-year-old and champion 3-year-old gelding in 2014 and AQHA champion aged horse and champion 3-year-old gelding in 2015. Hartley also campaigned Black Fryday, a multiple derby winner of $342,953, and most recently Cartel Jess Rockin, the winner of the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity. The leading money-earning filly in the nation in 2019 with $843,940, Cartel Jess Rockin was named the AQHA champion 2-year-old filly last year. Her victory in the Two Million was Ed Burgart’s final call before retiring.

“First of all, Ron Hartley was a great friend,” Cooper said. “We did a lot of things together and had a lot of fun together. We were really close. We talked every single day at about the same time each day and always talked about the horses. He was just a great owner. Moonist was his special horse I think, but Ron wanted to do better every year. He had 11 babies on the ground this year and he was excited about all of them. He was always happy about his racehorses. We can’t have a better owner or a friend to Quarter Horse racing than Ron Hartley. I was fortunate to have worked with him for a long time. He was special. We’re going to miss him.”

            Hartley was thankful to have been brought back to racing through the purchase of Joy Of Six. He was a strong supporter of the PCQHRA and of the Los Alamitos Race Track Chaplaincy of America.

“I'm so glad that I came back because I just love the sport,” he said in 2006 interview. “It doesn't matter if it's a trial or a claiming race because a win is always exciting. I also feel that working at Los Alamitos made it possible for me to acquire property, so I (wanted) to put something back into the game.  Being selected for the Frank Vessels award was one of my greatest moments in Quarter Horse racing. It was a huge honor and I couldn't even think of words to say as I was standing at that podium."

On that special night when Hartley received the Frank Vessels Sr. Award, it was Past AQHA President Frank "Scoop" Vessels who did the presentation.

"Whenever I can't figure something out about the races, Ron Hartley is the guy I called. I knew he could me figure it out from the racing side of the business," said Scoop Vessels.

More information will be forthcoming as it becomes available. For more call 714-820-2690.



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