Gary Hartunian paid Roy H the highest compliment he could before the youngster even started by naming the colt for his late grandfather.
"My grandfather was a big mentor to me," Hartunian said. "He was very disciplined. It was all, ‘Moderation, moderation, Gary.’ I just remember those words and him lecturing me to this day."
Hartunian’s Rockingham Ranch has become a major California owner, often with horses trainer Peter Miller has helped purchase. They obtained Roy H for $310,000 at the 2014 Keeneland April 2-year-old sale, Ramona Bass having bred the son of More Than Ready —Elusive Diva, by Elusive Quality, in Kentucky.
"Roy H had a fantastic work at Keeneland," Miller recalled.
It took a layoff and gelding to turn Roy H into the champion male sprinter of 2017, however. Prior to his Eclipse Award-winning season, Roy H had broken his maiden but couldn’t seem to find a second victory. Miller discovered another key to Roy H—stabling at Santa Anita Park with assistant Ruben Alvarado instead of with Miller’s first string at San Luis Rey Downs.
Everything came together in 2017, as Roy H went through a near-perfect campaign. Had Drefong not tossed his jockey at the start of the Bing Crosby Stakes (G1), Roy H might have gone undefeated for the year.
Miller started Roy H out in allowance optional claiming company, where the new gelding easily won twice, the second time by 7 1/4 lengths. The trainer knew Roy H could do more than he had shown, so Miller sent the gelding to Belmont Park for the six-furlong True North Stakes (G2). Roy H responded with a 2 1/2-length victory over millionaire Stallwalkin' Dude and favored Whitmore.
Miller trains another good sprinter in St. Joe Bay and owns him with David Bernsen. While St. Joe Bay and Roy H were readying for the Bing Crosby, Bernsen and Hartunian good-naturedly teased each other about buying into each other’s horses. Ultimately, Hartunian let Bernsen in for a small percentage of Roy H.
"I needed a lucky rabbit’s foot, a lucky guy," Hartunian said.
Though failing to catch Ransom the Moon in the Bing Crosby when the riderless Drefong fanned him six wide, Roy H made amends in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship Stakes (G1). He defeated Mr. Hinx by a length, with Ransom the Moon in the beaten field.
Roy H sealed his Eclipse Award with an excellent performance in the TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1). Imperial Hint set torrid fractions and tenaciously clung to the lead when Roy H and jockey Kent Desormeaux challenged him in the stretch. The two battled furiously, but in the final furlong, Roy H edged past and then opened up a length margin at the wire.