Q-Racing Blog: Dues Paid and Rewarded

Moonist is a long-earned gift.

Q-Racing Journal

Moonist is a hard-earned gift for Ron Hartley.

Ron Hartley has paid his dues in the racehorse game.

His father was a trainer at Woodbine in Toronto, Ontario, and moved his family to Southern California in 1945.

As long as Hartley can recall, he has been going to the track. As a schoolboy, he went every Saturday and Sunday and he walked hots as soon as he was old enough to get a license. He helped his dad train Thoroughbreds and took a string of eight Thoroughbreds to train at Aqua Caliente Racetrack in Tijuana.

Hartley then moved to the front-side. He worked in the Los Alamitos racing office for Ed Burke, he worked as racing secretary during the Bay Meadows American Quarter Horse meet, he was the racing secretary for the winter meet at Los Alamitos for one year, he was racing secretary for the Fresno fair meet and for the Quarter Horses at the Los Angeles County Fair at Pomona. He also worked as a steward at Los Alamitos before he left to run his growing business interests.

Hall of Fame trainer Blane Schvaneveldt got Hartley back in the racing business. They were at a sale and Hartley didn’t own any horses. Schvaneveldt asked him if he had bought a horse. Hartley responded, “No.” Then Schvaneveldt handed Hartley a sale ticket and said, “You have now.”

Now Hartley says he has “reached the pinnacle.” He owns Moonist, who will be one of the favorites for the $600,000 Champion of Champions (G1) on December 12 at Los Alamitos, along with S-Quarter K LLC’s Heza Dasha Fire. They each could go off at 3-2 odds or lower. Moonist has been the odds-on favorite in his last 13 races while Heza Dasha Fire has been the odds-on choice in each of his 10 starts that offered wagering. They were each 2014 champions and currently Moonist is No. 1 in the AQHA Racing-Horseplayernow.com National Poll while Heza Dasha Fire holds down the poll’s second position.

They will test each other – along with eight other proven stakes horses – over the classic distance of 440 yards in the Champion of Champions and the winner will receive world champion consideration.

Hartley certainly has reached the pinnacle. And he has paid his dues.

In a similar circumstance as the horse Schvaneveldt “bought” for Hartley, he acquired Moonist.

At the 2012 Los Alamitos Equine Sale, trainer John Cooper signed the $21,500 ticket on Moonist for Hartley, who had not seen the yearling.

“When I first saw him, I thought he was a little rough,” Hartley said.

However, the other yearlings in the sale would have a hard time matching Moonist’s pedigree. The son of Separatist is out of 2001 champion 2-year-old Your First Moon, winner of the Los Alamitos Million (G1) and the Governor’s Cup (RG1) futurities.

Your First Moon has also produced Grade 1-placed Moonin The Eagle ($214,553), stakes winner Jess My Moon ($78,150) and Grade 3 winner Stray Cat ($58,638), the only Quarter Horse sired by the legendary Thoroughbred sire Storm Cat.

The Vessels Stallion Farm LLC-bred Moonist is joining the elite horses who ever raced at Los Alamitos.

In 2014, he became the only horse to win four derbies at Los Alamitos. His recent win in the $125,000 Robert L. Boniface Los Alamitos Championship (G1) was Moonist’s 20th win from 29 starts and he is now one of only nine horses to win at least 11 stakes races at Los Alamitos.

Also in 2015, Moonist has won the Go Man Go Handicap (G1) and the Spencer Childers California Breeders Championship (RG1).

Hartley has seen it all in racing. Cooper is among the top all-time leading trainers at Los Alamitos and has conditioned three of those aforementioned nine horses with at least 11 stakes wins at the Orange County track. Hartley is quick to say that Cooper calls the shots with Moonist and that groom Tebo “knows that horse so well and just loves that horse.

“I was just in the right place at the right time,” he continued. “All the credit goes to John Cooper. He is hands on and knows the horse.”

The 4-year-old Moonist has not left Los Alamitos since he arrived in the spring of his 2-year-old year. “John will let me know when it’s time (for Moonist to go to the farm),” Hartley said.

Moonist is a “hard breaker,” according to Hartley, so he will be intently watching his start under Cesar DeAlba in the Champion of Champions.

“He’s won from about every post position and if he breaks on top they haven’t caught him 20 times,” Hartley said.

The Champion of Champions is an iconic race. Since Mr Jet Moore’s win in the first Champion of Champions (1972), more world champions (26) have won the Champion of Champions during their world championship campaign than any other race.

This year’s running could also be the start of something bigger. The geldings Moonist and Heza Dasha Fire will be the two hot favorites. Los Alamitos has been home to great rivalries before, including Denim N Diamonds and Sgt Pepper Feature, along with Charger Bar and Kaweah Bar. Each of those four champions won the Champion of Champions.

Moonist and Heza Dasha Fire have never met. Maybe the Champion of Champions will start a rivalry between the two geldings that grows into a boon for Quarter Horse racing in Quarter Horse racing’s largest market.

There were billboards along the 405 Freeway promoting the Denim N Diamonds-Sgt Pepper Feature matchups. Bring back the billboards.


*A note from Wrangler Ace Martha Claussen:

 Jess A Saint. PHOTO: Coady Photography

"Skinny" Yearling Wins the LQHBA Futurity: Last Saturday night at Evangeline Downs, Jess A Saint, the 10th-fastest qualifier, drew off impressively to capture the $1 million LQHBA Breeders Futurity (RG1). Owned by Julio Rios and trained by Miguel Rodriguez, the gelded son of Jess Louisiana Blue was purchased for just $7,200 at the 2014 LQHBA Yearling Sale.

Rodriguez remembers that Rios, who owns an oil rig services company in Mission, Texas, asked him to look at the Jumonville Farms yearling.

"He asked me what I thought about Jess A Saint," recalled Rodriguez.  "He was skinny, but had perfect conformation. You could picture him with weight. That's probably the only reason we were able to buy him for $7,200."

Jess A Saint made seven starts this year at four different racetracks, with three victories and lifetime earnings of $464,816.

Rodriguez praised rider Raul Ramirez, Jr., who won the seven-figure futurity this year with Jess A Saint and last year aboard JLS Dashn and Zoomn.

"He is a great jockey," said Rodriguez.  "Raul has a lot of experience and does not get nervous in finals."

Neither did the once-skinny yearling.


Russel Hadley.
PHOTO: Coady Photography

Hadley High on Midnite: Sunday’s $200,000 Southwest Juvenile Championship (G1) at Zia Park drew a full and competitive field of 2-year-olds. Bella Vista Farms’ homebred, BV Midnite Express, has been tabbed as the 5-2 morning line choice in the 440-yard stakes. Trained by Eddie Lee Willis, the son of Freighttrain B won the $1.1 million Heritage Place Futurity (G1) at Remington Park last May and added a victory in the $200,000 All American Juvenile Invitational Stakes (R) at Ruidoso Downs on Labor Day weekend.

Russel Hadley will ride the gelding, who is currently ranked fourth in the AQHA Racing-Horseplayernow.com National Poll for 2-year-olds.

"He's a quality horse, for sure," said Hadley, who arrived in Hobbs Wednesday afternoon. "We were high on him early in the year and things went very well at Remington Park. It's rare to have a horse so sharp early in the year and he has stayed sound."

The plans are to run in Sunday's Southwest Juvenile Championship and finish his 2-year-old campaign at Sunland Park on December 27 in the first running of the $250,000-guaranteed Sunland Park Juvenile Championship.

"To win four major races at four different tracks should put him into contention for championship honors," adds Hadley. "But, win or lose, we feel he has already shown world champion talent."

Don't miss the Aces live appearances.

Wrangler Racing Aces in December: Wrangler Racing Ace Denis Blake chronicled some great history on the Champion of Champions for the December issue of HorsePlayer.now magazine. 

Martha Claussen will be heading to Fair Grounds on Saturday, December 12, for Louisiana Champions Day. The stakes-filled card begins with three Quarter Horse championships and continues throughout the afternoon with some of the top Louisiana-bred Thoroughbreds competing on both turf and the main track.

Visit the Q-Racing Aces page on Facebook or follow them @HorseRacingAces on Twitter to learn more about future live appearances and social media on Quarter Horse racing across North America.

AQHA News and information is a service of the American Quarter Horse Association. For more news and information, follow @AQHARacing on Twitter, “like” Q-Racing on Facebook and visit www.aqharacing.com.