by Karen M. Johnson
Trainer Richard Schosberg’s Derby dreams didn’t come to fruition with Maria’s Mon, the champion 2-year-old male of 1995, after an injury kept the colt on the sidelines for the Kentucky Derby (gr. I). Thirteen years later, however, Schosberg can start dreaming again with the undefeated Giant Moon.
Giant Moon, a New York-bred son of Giant’s Causeway, remained undefeated in four starts for his owner-breeder, Albert Fried Jr., after winning the Jan. 5 Count Fleet Stakes at Aqueduct. Derby dreams came true in the 2004 Count Fleet, when Smarty Jones won the race en route to capturing the first two legs of the Triple Crown.
Schosberg, 46, is cautiously optimistic that Giant Moon is the real deal.
“We’re thinking that Derby or some Derby,” Schosberg said Jan. 7. “We are keeping the Kentucky Derby as a wonderful possibility for him. He still has to move forward on the (speed figures), but they do keep getting better, which is important if he is to compete with the top 2-year-olds from last year.”
Giant Moon’s neck win in the mile and 70-yard Count Fleet came on the heels of wins in restricted company. He won his career debut Sept. 12 at Belmont Park by 1 ¼ lengths. It was a performance that surprised Schosberg because he said the colt was slow to show any spark in his morning workouts.
His maiden win was followed by wins in the Sleepy Hollow Stakes, a race won by 2003 Kentucky Derby winner Funny Cide, and the Damon Runyon Stakes. In both the Sleepy Hollow and Damon Runyon, the riders had to work hard on Giant Moon to get him to the finish line in front.
Between the Damon Runyon, in which he was ridden for the first time by Ramon Dominguez, and the Count Fleet, Schosberg noticed a positive change in Giant Moon’s training and mental attitude. Schosberg said that change revealed itself in the Count Fleet.
“The other day, the horse worked harder than Ramon had to work on him in the Damon Runyon,” Schosberg said. “It was easier on the rider. The Count Fleet was the first race that Giant Moon was blowing harder than the jock.
“Before the Count Fleet, there was a little jump in his step in the mornings; he was really alert, and came into the race pretty sharply. Before that, he was physically ahead of himself, now he is mentally maturing.”
Schosberg said he expects to be wooed by racing secretaries to ship Giant Moon out of New York for the winter and spring Kentucky Derby preps, but he sees no reason do that. Right now, he is contemplating awaiting the March 8 Gotham Stakes (gr. III) at Aqueduct rather than running back in the Feb. 2 Whirlaway Stakes at Aqueduct.
The long-range goal before the May 3 Kentucky Derby would be the April 5 Wood Memorial (gr. I) at Aqueduct.
“I don’t see any reason to ship,” Schosberg said. “There is no reason to run on a synthetic track before the Derby because that is run on a dirt track. He’s training well here and has dealt with the cold snaps and the heat wave we are now having.
“If we don’t run in the Whirlaway, I look at it, if anything, as replenishing him. We haven’t missed a whole much with him and he is a big-sized colt who can handle time in between his races.”
Schosberg trained Giant Moon’s dam, Moonlightandbeauty, who he said stamped her first foal, Giant Moon. Moonlightandbeauty, a daughter of Capote, is out of Stolen Beauty, winner of the 1991 Demoiselle Stakes (gr. II).
“Moonlightandbeauty was long and nearly black, like him,” Schosberg said as he showed off Giant Moon in his stall at Belmont Park. “This horse has Giant’s Causeway, Capote, Seattle Slew, and Deputy Minister in his pedigree. The potential was there on paper, so it is not surprising what he has done so far.”