12/27/2014 4:59PM

First-time starter fastest qualifier for Hialeah Derby

Coady Photography
Moonin the Eagle, ridden by Yardonis Amaro, runs 400 yards in 19.44 seconds to lead the qualifiers for the $200,000 Hialeah Derby for Quarter Horses on Jan. 18.

First-time starter Moonin the Eagle was the fastest qualifier during eight trial heats Saturday at Hialeah Park for next month’s $200,000 Hialeah Derby for Quarter Horses.

Moonin the Eagle covered 400 yards under jockey Yordanis Amaro in 19.44 seconds to win his career debut by 1 1/4 lengths. He is a half-brother to the star 3-year-old Moonist, who has won 9 of 10 starts this season, including the Grade 1 Golden State Derby at Los Alamitos.

The second- through fourth-place finishers in Moonin the Eagle’s heat – Kitty Kat Galore B (19.676 seconds), Denim Jeans (19.678), and Allazoom (19.688) – also ran fast enough to qualify for the finals. Kitty Kat Galore B was the 4-5 on the basis of a win in the Texas Classic Juvenile at Lone Star Park last month.

Moonin the Eagle’s trainer, Rolando Almanza, also handles the second fastest qualifier, Bp Run Cartel Run. An Oklahoma-bred who won the $150,000 Black Gold Futurity at Will Rogers Downs in early September, Bp Run Cartel Run won his heat in 19.61 seconds.

The other qualifiers for  the meet’s richest race, the 400-yard Hialeah Derby, on Jan. 18, are Seize The Win (19.678), Red Corona Warrior (19.696), The Moonshine Wagon (19.737),  Mr El R 15 (19.745), and A Black Zipper (19.751) .

Strong handle on opening day

Friday’s opening-day all-sources handle of $399,200 for eight races was more than double last year’s first-day total of $150,862, when the 2013-14 meet began in late November.

Friday’s handle was the fourth highest since Hialeah began Quarter Horse racing  in 2009.