Wrangler Racing Aces Blog
Special Valentine's Day weekend at Los Alamitos.
By Martha Claussen and Jonathan Horowitz | February 9, 2016
Wrangler Racing Aces
|Cesar DeAlba and Moonist make a top team.
PHOTO: Scott Martinez
Moonist a Dream Come True for DeAlba
By Martha Claussen
Sunday is Valentine's Day, and for millions of couples, the evening will include dinner with champagne. But for jockey Cesar DeAlba, the celebrating will be delayed until after his date with the extraordinary Moonist in the $139,700 Los Alamitos Winter Championship (G1) at the Southern California track.
Born in Guadalajara, Mexico, DeAlba moved with his family to the United States in 1989. He had a brief run on Thoroughbreds in 2001, but transitioned to Quarter Horses in 2007
Prior to his success with Moonist, DeAlba, 34, had piloted several top runners to wins in some of the most prestigious races in California. He won the Los Alamitos Invitational Championship (G1) with Strength In Numbers; the Governor’s Cup Derby (RG2) with Scoop Of Sunshine; the Vessels Maturity (G1) with Far Niente and the Go Man Go Handicap (G1) with Bon Accord.
Riding at Los Alamitos is extremely competitive and DeAlba is grateful to several horsemen for giving him opportunities, especially Blane Schvaneveldt champion trainer Paul Jones.
But there is no doubt that the career changer for DeAlba was Ron Hartley’s Moonist.
The gelded son of Separatist made nine starts as a juvenile with other riders before DeAlba got his chance on December 15, 2013.
"When I first started riding him, I watched his previous races on video," explained DeAlba. "A few things stood out, so I just decided to leave him alone. He stood in the gates like a pony and left like a rocket!"
A bond was formed and DeAlba guided Moonist through a very successful 3-year-old campaign, winning four derbies in 2014. Since their first victory in 2013, DeAlba has piloted the four-time champion to 17 wins.
On December 12, 2015, Moonist had a highly publicized first meeting with S-Quarter K LLC's Heza Dasha Fire in the $600,000 Champion of Champions. Heza Dasha Fire ended his spectacular year with a win, powering past Moonist by a margin of 1 1/4 lengths.
Just 12 days later, they met again, this time in trials for the Winter Championship. At odds of 4-1, Moonist evened the score, blazing to victory in the 400 yard trial in :19.506.
"After the Champion of Champions, everyone expected us to get beat," said DeAlba. "I knew he had to break really sharp or we would be running for second. He broke perfectly and I got after him left-handed. He was amazing and it felt great!"
DeAlba credits trainer John Cooper for keeping Moonist sound and happy between races.
"John never gallops Moonist in between races," said DeAlba. "He just gets ponied around the track and kicks, bucks and plays."
On Sunday night, Moonist and Heza Dasha Fire will square off in the final of the Winter Championship.
Of course, DeAlba would love to make it two in a row, but win or lose, he has two very special "valentines" in his corner: his wife, Becky and their 15-month-old son, Kevin.
"He's doing great and growing so fast," DeAlba said of his son. "He loves horses, and enjoys trips to the ranches and being at Los Al during the races."
DeAlba's father was a jockey, as is his uncle Eddie Garcia, the all-time winningest rider at Los Alamitos.
Is another generation of Quarter Horse jockey in the making?
"No way," stated DeAlba. "We have told him he has to be a doctor when he grows up!"
|Dynasty Energy PHOTO: Scott Martinez|
Handicapping the First Grade 1 Derby of 2016
By Jonathan Horowitz
When the starting gates opened for the Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity (G1) on December 13, 2015, Dynasty Energy had been dismissed as the longest shot in the field. When the race ended, Dynasty Energy earned a measure of respect among Southern California’s top 2-year-olds with a third-place finish. Now a 3-year-old, the Christopher O’Dell-trainee ridden by Tony Guymon will have a chance to win his first Grade 1 race in Saturday’s Los Alamitos Winter Derby, following a victory in the trials to start his 2016 campaign.
He will be part of a wide-open field of 10 in the 400-yard, $215,250 stake that is the first Grade 1 derby of 2016. The fastest qualifier in the five trials on January 23 was Rite Regal, who will have Ricky Ramirez aboard for the first time in the finals. Trained by Jose Flores, Rite Regal clocked :19.863 in an 11-1 upset in the first trial over second-fastest qualifier Jess Good Reason in :19.895. Jess Good Reason will try to rebound after suffering his first defeat following three wins with Roberto Hernandez aboard for trainer Paul Jones.
Dynasty Energy qualified third-fastest in :19.923 in a dead-heat in the third trial with Uno Corona Mas. Yet the most impressive trial winner may have been Senor Gianni. He is one of three finalists trained by Jones, the meet’s leading trainer. Ridden by Los Alamitos’ current leading jockey, Oscar Peinado, Senor Gianni cruised in the second trial to victory by three-quarters of a length. That was largest margin of the five trials while the others were decided by a neck or less. Like Dynasty Energy, Senor Gianni made the finals of the Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity, finishing seventh. The Winter Derby also includes Two Million fifth-place finisher Jess A Politician.
My pick will be the consistent Dynasty Energy, who has finished in the top-three in his eight career starts and is the leading money-earner in the field at $253,511. Although he was only the fifth-fastest qualifier, Senor Gianni could be a top contender based on his eye-catching trial victory. Top four selections: 6-8-7-3
Wrangler Racing Aces in February
Visit the Q-Racing Aces page on Facebook or follow them @HorseRacingAces on Twitter for timely updates on Quarter Horse racing across North America. The Wrangler Racing Aces are following the horses, jockeys, trainers and milestones at Los Alamitos, Hialeah Park, Louisiana Downs as well as Rillito Park, which opens February 13.
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.