08/28/2013 1:37PM

Los Alamitos: Golden State Derby winner Far Niente has improved since being gelded


Far Niente, the winner of last Sunday’s $232,900 Golden State Derby at Los Alamitos, has more career wins than his trainer, Jose Hernandez Jr.

Far Niente won for the sixth time in 10 starts in the Golden State Derby. For the 31-year-old Hernandez, Far Niente’s win was the fourth of his training career, which began earlier this year.

In 2012, Hernandez was an assistant to John Wells when Far Niente was part of the stable. Wells retired earlier this year, leaving Hernandez with 14 horses. Far Niente was the most accomplished of those, and is unbeaten in two starts since being given a six-month break and being gelded.

The Golden State Derby win has left Hernandez and owners Tom Atwood and Vessels Stallion Farm optimistic that Far Niente could be at the start of a lengthy winning streak.

“I think he’ll get better,” Hernandez said.

In the 400-yard race, Far Niente was third and ran well in the final 100 yards to take the lead and win by a neck over Jess Being Valiant, in 19.59 seconds.

“I was confident if he got a good break,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez, who was born in Tijuana and raised in Southern California, has worked at Los Alamitos for the last 13 years, as an exercise rider for a variety of stables and as an assistant for Wells and Bret Vickery.

Wells told Hernandez in 2012 that he planned to retire last winter, giving the young trainer a chance to prepare for the transition. He is hoping to expand his stable in coming months, and is certain to gain some attention with Far Niente’s win.

Far Niente has earned $242,644. In 2012, Far Niente had erratic form. He qualified for the Pacific Coast Quarter Horse Breeders’ Futurity last October, but behaved poorly in the paddock and before the race, finishing third as the 8-5 favorite.

Far Niente was later seventh in the Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity, finishing a length behind race winner Matabari. After finishing second in a division of the Los Alamitos Winter Derby in late January, Far Niente was gelded and given a rest.

His next objective will be the PCQHRA Breeders’ Derby, which has time trials on Sept. 13 and a final with a projected purse of $200,000 on Oct. 4.

“As a gelding, he’s moved forward,” Hernandez said. “I think he’ll get better.”