All American: Granted

Grant Farms bred 30 percent of the All American field.

AQHA Media

Trainer Wes Giles holds Pilot Points Moon. PHOTO: Richard Chamberlain

Two starts, two wins. And a berth in the All American Futurity (G1). That’s Pilot Points Moon.

Three starts, one win, one second. And the All American. That’s Badhabit Jess.

Four starts, one win, two seconds. All American. That’s Moonflash Numbers.

Pilot Points Moon, Badhabit Jess, Moonflash Numbers. That’s Grant Farms, which bred all three, and – oh, yeah – still own and race Pilot Points Moon.

Jon and Donna McPherson’s Grant Farms LLC is the only breeder to have more than one qualifier in this year’s $3 million running of American Quarter Horse racing’s richest event. Since 2012, the farm at Pineville, Louisiana, has bred the earners of more than $4.3 million, including graded stakes winners Big Dashing Perry ($350,022), Paint My Pilot ($377,577) and Long Wagon Ho ($154,264), and also raced others such as stakes winner Adore The Hero.

“I really liked Pilot Points Moon,” Donna said. “When we take horses to the sale, we’re out to sell everything, but when that colt went through the ring, he just wasn’t bringing anywhere near enough. We bought him back for $40,000. I thought he was such a perfect individual, and I thought he looked more like his mother than anything she’d ever had. The body shape, the head, all (of him) looked more similar to the mother, and I couldn’t let him go for that. I said that thing’s gonna run. So we got him broke, the guy who broke him, liked him and then we sent him to Wes Giles. Wes liked him, but thought he needed to mature a little bit, so we kinda sat on him and waited.”

Both Pilot Points Moon and Moonflash Numbers are by First Moonflash, a 13-year-old son of the deceased champion First To Flash. A champion and 440-yard world record-setter who earned $969,828 on the track, First Moonflash from six crops to race has sired the earners of more than $12 million, including in 2013 both All American Futurity winner Handsome Jack Flash and All American Derby (G1) winner Too Flash For You. First Moonflash also is the sire of this year’s All American qualifier No Mires A La Luna. First Moonflash stands at Double L L Farm at Bosque, New Mexico.

Pilot Points Moon is one of 14 winners from 19 starters out of the stakes-winning Splash Bac mare Ms Pilot Point ($73,706), whose first foal, the Mr Jess Perry stallion Mr Piloto, won the 2010 All American Futurity. Ms Pilot Point has produced the earners of more than $2 million, including 2013 All American Derby third-place finisher Point Break Dash (by First Down Dash, $413,127) and 2016 Rainbow Futurity (G1) runner-up Paint My Pilot (by PYC Paint Your Wagon, $377,577).

Trained by Wes Giles, who has conditioned the earners of more than $22.5 million, Pilot Points Moon is undefeated in two starts, ridden in both by Adrian Ramos. The sorrel gelding made his first start in an August 4 maiden race, a 300-yard test that he won by a head while posting a speed index of 101. He made his second start on the second day of the All American trials, when he scored by 1 1/2 lengths over a field that included his half-brother Pilotpointdashing, a First Down Dash gelding bred by Grant and racing for Victor Diaz.

“Pilot Points Moon ran a big race,” Donna said. “He had only had one out, and in that first race, he ran very straight and very professional. Wes said, ‘Hey, this horse might have it, he’s going to like going farther down the track.’ The horse ran a very good trial race, and came back feeling good, jumping and kicking and carrying on. I’m proud of him. He’s always been very much of a gentleman, always does what he’s supposed to do.”

Moonflash Numbers races for Jose Soto of Horizon City, Texas, who paid $30,000 for him at the 2017 Ruidoso Select Yearling Sale. The sorrel colt is one of nine winners from 12 starters out of the Grade 1-winning Strawfly Special mare Strength In Numbers ($267,746). Strength In Numbers has produced the earners of more than $346,000, including stakes winners Mr Perry Strong (by Mr Jess Perry, $68,571) and Lonely In Front BR (by Favorite Cartel, $34,771) and stakes-placed runner Piloto Strong (by Mr Piloto, $97,403). Strength In Numbers has a yearling by One Famous Eagle named Famous Numbers Fly.

“I love Strawfly Special, but I don’t have very many of them,” Donna said. “Moonflash Numbers is out of Strength In Numbers, a Strawfly Special mare who did not have a very good production record when I bought her. But I really believe in that family. I saw a yearling that Ben and Christine Hudson had raised that was out of a full sister to her, and I thought this is a great family. The Hudsons’ yearling was One Fabulous Eagle, a really fine baby. I saw him at the Ruidoso yearling sale after I bought the mare, and he made me a total believer in that family.”

An earner of $664,547, that stakes-winning colt by One Famous Eagle that so impressed Donna then went on to run second in last year’s All American Futurity and was third in the Grade 1 Ruidoso Futurity.

“Then when I started getting babies out of Strength In Numbers, I thought they were really great and they’ve really started hitting,” Donna said. “And then, of course, the mare broke a back leg and we had to put her down last year. Made me sick, but we have the last foal out of her, a One Famous Eagle filly named Famous Numbers Fly.”

Moonflash Numbers is trained by Soto’s nephew Salvador Soto. With Sergio Becerra Jr. in the saddle, the colt was first to wire in the 14th of 16 trials on the second day of trials. His time of :21.677 was the fifth-fastest of the day, but the gelding was disqualified for interference. In a hearing last week, the New Mexico Racing Commission reversed the disqualification, placing the horse in the All American final while dropping previous 10th-fastest qualifier Rustys Miracle to the fastest qualifying time for the $200,000 First Down Dash Stakes.

The win in the All American trials was the first in four starts for Moonflash Numbers. He was a disqualified fifth in his debut, a March 23 trial to the West Texas Futurity (G2), and then was second in trials for both the Grade 1 Ruidoso and Rainbow futurities.

Then there’s Badhabit Jess, who also broke his maiden in the August 18 All American trials. The sorrel gelding started his career in the May 25 Ruidoso Futurity trials, when he finished third but was moved to second in a non-qualifying time. In the July 7 Rainbow trials, he was fourth. With Ricky Ramirez up for trainer Blane Wood, Badhabit Jess ran in the final heat on the second day of the All American trials, when he scored by a nose in the eighth-fastest time over ninth-fastest qualifier No Mires A La Luna.

Badhabit Jess races for Manuel, Javier and Hermelinda Rodriguez’s La Feliz Montana Ranch LLC, which purchased him for $25,000 at the All American Select Yearling Sale. La Feliz Montana Ranch won the 2008 All American with champion Heartswideopen, and has raced the earners of more than $2.4 million, including Grade 1 winner Jess Significant.

Badhabit Jess is by champion Mr Jess Perry, who died in 2017 and will be inducted into the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame in 2019. The No. 3 all-time leading sire, Mr Jess Perry has sired the earners of more than $54 million, including All American Futurity winner Mr Piloto. In 2013, Grant Farms acquired Mr Piloto, who has sired the earners of more than $1.4 million and stands at Dr. Eddie Cramer’s Louisiana Center For Equine Reproduction – LACER – at Opelousas, Louisiana.

Badhabit Jess is one of three winners from seven starters out of the stakes-winning Looking For Chicks mare Sheza Bad Habit ($164,545), who won the 2011 Merial Distaff Challenge Championship (G1). The Vessels-bred mare’s dam is a full sister to champion Old Habits ($680,966).

“I was waiting for that mare to produce something,” Donna said. “We paid quite a bit for her and we needed her to pay some of it back. I’m real tickled, because she’s got an All American qualifier now.”

Donna and her husband have three daughters: Jennifer, Jessica and Jerianne, who has son Jon Louis Schneider, 12.

“Our grandson is very much into all this,” Donna said. “He knows more about horses than a lot of adults do.”

Donna paused, and offered a thought.

“I think if Pilot Points Moon were to win the All American Futurity, Ms Pilot Point would be the only mare to have two All American winners,” Donna said.

There have been 32 other mares with multiple All American qualifiers.

Ms Pilot Point is one of nine mares to produce multiple qualifiers that include a winner, but indeed none have produced two winners. The closest to achieving the feat, to date, is Corona Chick, who in 1997 had winner Corona Cash, and in 2007 had third-place finisher Captain Courage. (Corona Chick also produced a third qualifier, Mighty Corona, who was ninth in 2008.) It is notable that one mare, FL Lady Bug, had three top 3-finishers, although she never had a winner. Lady Bug’s Moon was second in 1968, Top Ladybug was third in 1966 and Barne’s Ladybug was also third in 1967. 

“I went out in the pasture and petted (Ms Pilot Point) a while ago,” she said. “She’s in a pasture with Famous Corona Lady (dam of Grade 1-placed Jest Famous) and Old Habits’ sister Sheza Habit (the second dam of Badhabit Jess) – they kinda run together in a little peer group of girls. They get along very well, they love each other.”

So Grant Farms is home to happy horses.

“That’s what we’re trying for,” Donna said. “Our farm is rolling hills – no flat ground, lots of sand, and we plant rye grass every winter. We try to keep good pasture, because horses do better when they have good sweet grass to eat and lots of water to drink. My grandson thinks he’s going to be running the horse farm someday, so I guess we’ll hang on to it until he’s old enough.”

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