All American: Don't Look at the Moon

No Mires A La Luna makes a statement.

AQHA Media

No Mires A La Luna enjoys a morning graze outside his race barn. PHOTO: Richard Chamberlain

Don’t look now, but the Moon is coming up.

No Mires A La Luna will go to post on Monday in the $3 million All American Futurity (G1). The bay gelding by First Moonflash should be ready to stretch his legs.

“He’s kind of a real high-strung horse in the stall, but once you get him out, he’s a big baby,” said Trey Ellis, who trains No Mires A La Luna for David Valdez and breeder Byron Woodard of Hobbs, New Mexico. “We have to track ‘No Mires’ pretty regular, because if we don’t, he tears the stall up and he’d probably hurt himself.”

No Mires A La Luna – Spanish for “Don’t look at the moon” – comes into the All American off a second by a nose to Badhabit Jess, after being bumped at the break and rallying to close late.

Racing in the last of 16 heats on the second day of trials, Badhabit Jess clocked the eighth-fastest time of :21.664, while No Mires A La Luna goes to the gate with the ninth-fastest, :21.680.

The stakes-placed No Mires A La Luna is still a maiden, but has lit the board in five of seven career starts and knows how to show up for a big dance. An earner of $51,236, the gelding on June 16 was third in Jess Fire Chick’s $345,655 Mountain Top Futurity (RG3) and came into the August 18 All American trials off an eighth to Jess Fire Chick in the $409,680 Zia Futurity (RG1) on July 28.

“No Mires made his first start in a maiden race at Houston, where he ran second,” said Ellis, who also will saddle last year’s All American winner, Fly Baby Fly, in Sunday’s $1.2 million All American Derby (G1). “We came out here for the Mountain Top trials and he ran second, but qualified. He came back in the final and ran third, but he only got beat a neck – ran a real good race in the final. Then he got in a little trouble out of the gate in the Zia final and didn’t run a good race.”

No Mires A La Luna was ridden in the Mountain Top and Zia by Rodrigo Vallejo, who also rode him in the All American trials.

“No Mires didn’t get away good again in the trials, but he pushed through a hole and finished strong,” the trainer said. “He stood perfect, but he kinda hopped out of the gate and they squeezed him off a little bit. Rodrigo got after him a little bit right away, and after two or three jumps, he shot straight to the front and finished well.”

Over the past quarter-century, Vallejo has ridden the earners of more than $23.8 million, putting him in the top 25 all-time-leading jockeys by money earned. The reigning AQHA champion jockey scored in last year’s All American Derby aboard champion Hold Air Hostage, and has also ridden world champions Jessies First Down and Stolis Winner, and Grade 1 winners Mr Queens Mystery, Azoom, Eagle Jazz, Stimulus, This Snow Is Cold and Royal Shake Em.

Bred by Woodard, No Mires A La Luna is one of 417 starters by First Moonflash, a 13-year-old son of champion First To Flash. A champion and 440-yard world record setter, First Moonflash earned $969,828 on the racetrack. From six crops to race, he has sired the earners of more than $12 million, including 2013 All American Futurity winner Handsome Jack Flash and 2013 All American Derby winner Too Flash For You, and also is the sire of Pilot Points Moon, who will run as the third-fastest qualifier in the All American Futurity. First Moonflash stands at Double LL Farm at Bosque, New Mexico.

No Mires A La Luna is one of two starters out of Dont Looke Ethel ($26,100), a winning daughter of Genuine Strawfly. Dont Looke Ethel is a half-sister to the winning Corona Cocktail mare Eddie Jym, dam of the champion Desirio mare PJ Chick In Black ($652,081), who ran in world champion One Dashing Eagle’s All American Futurity. In 2012, Woodard bought Dont Look Ethel from Carl and Fredda Draper.

Byron R. “Woody” Woodard, 68, is a former United States Army Airborne Ranger. He lives in Hobbs, and shares a cabin in Ruidoso with his brother, Tommy Joe.
 
“I used to be a rodeo cowboy,” Woodard said. “I rode bulls and broncs, and went to the college national finals four times while I was at the University of Tennessee at Martin. I’ve been in the horse business since 1979, and I’m a pilot – have my own Cessna and sometimes fly jockeys around to get on horses. Now I’m sort of retired, living off my savings and raising horses.”

Woodard keeps his horses at Crozier Farms.

“That’s Denny Crozier’s place at Hobbs,” he said. “Denny’s on the board of the New Mexico Horse Breeders Association. He does a great job. They’re all professionals there at Denny’s farm. They all do a real good job.”

Woodard partners on No Mires A La Luna with David Valdez of Alpine, Texas, a friend with whom he used to work in the oil and gas business. Valdez owns Mad About The Moon ($766,053), the First Moonflash gelding that in 2014 was second behind JM Miracle in the All American Futurity. Valdez also owns Flash Moonfire, who last year was second in the Mountain Top Futurity (RG3) and has earned $104,064.

“Me and David really like First Moonflash,” Woodard said. “He’s a real fan of that horse. We thought it’d be fun to breed to him.”

Now they’ve got an All American qualifier.

“He’s a big, rugged, scrappy horse,” Woodard said. “When No Mires was born, I knew he was going to be a classy horse, and we’d just run him in stakes races. I started with him the way I always do. I always pick up the colts when they hit the ground and they never forget you. So now he’s real sensitive and he really likes people.”

“He was a little immature when they first shipped him out here,” Ellis said. “Every time we’ve run him, he’s progressed and gotten a little more mature each race. He’s where he needs to be now. He’s a big ol’ gelding and looked like he was going to be a 440 horse, so we’ve been excited all summer for the All American trials.”

The 28-year-old Ellis lives in Lafayette, Louisiana, with wife Casey and their son, Mason, 6.

“My whole family has always had horses,” he said. “Both my grandpas were into horses, and my dad (Kenny Ellis) was a jockey a long time ago, way before my time. I worked with my dad’s cousin, Ray Robbins, ever since I got through school. Ray trains Quarter Horses in Louisiana. I’m from Grand Bay, Alabama, right on the water, and the night I graduated high school, I had my stuff packed and moved out to Louisiana with him and never went back home.”

From then until now, Ellis has made his home on the Louisiana circuit, where since 2010, he has trained 271 winners and the earners of more than $4.5 million. Horses conditioned by Ellis have finished in the money in 40 percent of their races, and include graded stakes winners Embrujo Star ($260,864) and First Corona Down ($202,032), and Old South Futurity winner Jess A Rogue ($128,173).

“I’ve mainly stayed in Louisiana,” he said. “This is my first year to venture out. This year, I went to Remington with Eagles Fly Higher.”

On April 28, Ellis sent out Eagles Fly Higher to win the $100,000 Remington Park Juvenile Stakes (R). Then he hauled his horses to New Mexico for his first season on The Mountain, where he’ll saddle his first starter in the All American Futurity.

“It still ain’t sunk in yet, but it’s definitely a dream come true,” Ellis said. “This was my dad’s dream, too, and he has always encouraged me to go for it. Folks tell me, ‘Hey, just take it in, a lot of us have been doing this for 30-40 years and have still never got there.’ It’s a blessing, definitely a blessing – but I’ve been blessed with the right people, the right owners and the right horses to get to this point.”