09/21/2010 2:18PM

How high can Golden Moka go?

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Michael Burns
Golden Moka, who was 10-1 when he upset the Prince of Wales, was discovered in Panama by former jockey Rene Douglas, who is now one of the horse's owners.

In just one start, Golden Moka has placed an ownership group led by retired jockey Rene Douglas in an enviable position. The horse more than paid for himself when he handily knocked off a $500,000 stakes in July. And by virtue of that win, he could go favored Saturday in the Grade 2, $500,000 Super Derby at Louisiana Downs.

Undefeated in three starts in Panama, Golden Moka has been a mystery horse since he arrived in North America. He was 10-1 when he rallied from off the pace to win the second leg of the Canadian Triple Crown, the $500,000 Prince of Wales on July 25. The Prince of Wales was Golden Moka’s first race in eight months and his first test at two turns. Now undefeated in four starts, he has left many curious as to the full scope of his talent.

“The Super Derby is the next step to get a gauge on him,” said Brian Lynch, who trains Golden Moka for Good Friends Stable.

Douglas, a native of Panama, was instrumental in scouting out Golden Moka. The horse had won a maiden race, an allowance, and a Group 3 in Panama by a combined margin of 18 lengths between September and November 2009.

“I knew this horse would go long,” Douglas said. “In Panama, they don’t run too many long races because it’s so hot over there. He won his first race very impressively. He just played with the horses. And in the stakes last time, they tried to push him and squeeze him and he never gave up. They put a lot of pressure on him and he still won it, and after the finish line, he saw another horse and he opened up again. I like horses when they do that. They seem to have a big heart.”

According to Douglas, Golden Moka was purchased in April for $50,000. There was an additional $20,000 in shipping costs, he said, as the horse had to travel from South America to Canada. Golden Moka had been owned by the father of his original trainer, Jose Bartoli, and became available after the owner’s death. Bartoli’s father had purchased Golden Moka for $8,000 as a yearling at Keeneland in 2008. Bred in Ontario, the horse is by Golden Missile and from the female family of Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Arazi.

“The son just decided to sell,” said Douglas.

Douglas has several partners in Golden Moka, including Denis Savard, a Hall of Fame hockey player. The group was formed in the aftermath of a May 2009 spill at Arlington Park that left Douglas paralyzed from the waist down.

“When I got hurt, these guys meant everything to me,” Douglas said. “They are good friends. When I got hurt, they were with me 24-7. This was like something to give back. They like the sport so much. I was more excited to see them jumping up and down after the horse won than the horse winning the race. They were so good to me.”

The other part of the Golden Moka equation was to find the right trainer for the horse. Douglas turned to another friend, Lynch, whom he had ridden for when the two men were based in Southern California in the mid-1990s.

“Brian is absolutely great at bringing a horse up to win first back from a layoff,” he said. “I always liked the way he trained. I really wanted to go slow with this horse, and that’s the thing with Brian. He’s patient.”

Douglas said the Prince of Wales showcased Lynch’s abilities. The horse had not raced farther than six furlongs heading into the July 25 stakes at Fort Erie. He won by 2 3/4 lengths, and in the process defeated Queen’s Plate winner Big Red Mike.

“From three-quarters to a mile and three-sixteenths is unbelievable,” Douglas said. “It’s hard to find a trainer who can do that. And not for a $500,000 race. Usually, they run in an allowance to get ready for the big race. This one got ready in the big race. You’ve got to give Brian big, big credit. He was the right trainer for this horse.”

Lynch said he liked what he saw from Golden Moka heading into the Prince of Wales.

“He trained like he was more than capable of stepping up,” he said. “He gave us the confidence to take the chance. He’s the ultimate professional, a lovely horse to be around. He puts a lot into his training. He’s a good work horse. And he’s got heart. The reason why he’s 4 for 4 is because he wants to be a good horse. He’s got a lot of heart.”

So does Douglas. He won’t be at the Super Derby, but he is making progress in his rehab efforts back home in Florida. Douglas has had a stem-cell treatment for his injuries in a procedure that was done in Panama.

“It went good,” he said. “I go back in November. I have to do it at least three times. I’m just doing therapy and hoping that God will heal me. I’m doing the best I can. They should make a movie about this horse. He’s helping the healing.”