When word of Danjer’s death spread in June 2023, many tears were shed. The 7-year-old gelding was still in his prime, defeating many other top runners in his two Grade 1 wins that spring. At the close of the year, more tears were shed as he was named the 2023 World Champion Racing American Quarter Horse, honoring one of the most accomplished racehorses to ever grace the sprint track.
This is the second world champion title for Danjer, who earned his first in 2021. He was also named the 2023 champion aged gelding and champion aged horse, bringing his total career champion titles to eight. He was bred and trained by Dean R. Frey, and co-owned by Frey in partnership with Downtime Enterprises and Billy Smith. He was ridden in both his 2023 starts by Francisco Calderon.
In 2023, Danjer won the Leo Stakes (G1) and Debbie Schauf Remington Park Invitational Championship (G1), earning $230,364, defeating eventual Champion of Champions (G1) winner Flash Bak in both races. In his career, he won 22 of 35 starts, with an additional 10 placings, and earned $2,499,432. The son of FDD Dynasty is the sport’s all-time leading winner of Grade 1 races with 12 victories. He is also the sport’s No. 3 all-time leading money earner and the only racehorse in the sport’s history to surpass the $2 million mark in earnings while never winning a seven-figure-purse race.
Just A Kool Boy is the champion aged stallion for breeder Garrett Baker and owner Adina Baker. Trained by Eddie D. Willis and ridden by Jimmy Brooks and Justine Klaiber, the Favorite Cartel stallion’s 5-1-0-2 record includes a victory in the Bob Moore Memorial Stakes (G2) and earnings of $53,782.
Johnny Trotter’s Famous Shining Star won the Charger Bar Handicap (G1) and two other stakes, and is the champion aged mare. The Julianna Hawn Holt-bred daughter of One Famous Eagle won four of six starts and earned $109,970 while being trained by Jose Antonio Flores and ridden by Cruz Mendez and Erasmo Gasca.
This year’s All American Futurity (G1) trifecta was also the trifecta of 2-year-old champions. Leading them was the race winner Cowboys Gun Z, who is the 2-year-old champion and champion 2-year-old gelding. By freshman sire Flying Cowboy 123, the Running C Ranch LLC-bred horse is owned by West Texas Racing Partner, trained by Michael W. Joiner and ridden by Agustin Silva. He earned $1,548,344 while winning three of six starts, with two seconds.
Second place in the All American was eventual champion 2-year-old colt Trane Station V, who is owned by Valeriano Racing Stables LLC. Bred by Dr. Steve Burns, the Favorite Cartel colt won the Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity (G1) and Golden State Million Futurity (G1), and was the year’s leading money earner with $1,754,152 while winning six of nine starts. He was trained by Santos Carrizales Jr. and M. Heath Taylor and ridden by Francisco Calderon.
Third place in the All American was eventual champion 2-year-old filly Dark NME. The winner of the Remington Park Oklahoma-Bred Futurity (RG1), Rainbow Futurity (G1), and Texas Classic Futurity (G1), she won eight of nine starts and earned $1,559,452. The daughter of Hes Relentless was bred by L. Hendrix Horses LLC, is owned by TYKHE Racing LLC, trained by Santos Carrizales Jr. and ridden by Francisco Calderon and Francisco Ramirez Jr.
The Favorite Cartel colt Cyber Attack was named champion 3-year-old and champion 3-year-old colt after a season that included three wins from six starts and earnings of $569,429 as well as a victory in the Ruidoso Derby (G1). Bred by Dr. Steve Burns, he is owned by Rosenthal Ranch LLC. The colt, who was last year’s champion 2-year-old colt, was trained by Christopher G. O’Dell and ridden by Eduardo Nicasio.
Fearless Moon is a homebred racing for Gentry Farms and is the champion 3-year-old filly after a year where she won two and placed in five more of her 10 races, earning $293,387. The First Moonflash filly was trained by Juan G. Aleman, and ridden by Jesus Rios Ayala, Irving Lara, Sergio Becerra Jr., and Diego Herrera.
The Apollitical Jess gelding Chasing AJ is the champion 3-year-old gelding for the partnership of Steve A. Holt, Charles B. Cox, Jack W. Powers, and Roger Moore. Bred by Don Griffin Jr., the gelding won three of eight starts, including the Texas Classic Derby (G1), and earned $542,419. He was trained by M. Heath Taylor and ridden by Rodrigo Vallejo.
The Grand Legend is the sport’s distance champion after winning six of eight starts, highlighted by the Cox Ranch Distance Challenge Championship (G1). Bred by Mercy Hinklins Horse Farm LLC, the son of FDD Going Grand is owned by James C. Whitener LLC, was trained by Adan Guzman and Monty Arrossa, and ridden by Noe Villatoro and Francisco Calderon. He earned $185,763 during the year.
Mexican Champion Sea Toast is owned by Jimy Johnathan Maqueda Gomez and won all five starts during the year, including the Garanones Futurity (RG2), while earning $105,647. Bred by Salome Gallegos, the daughter of Sea Horse Corona was trained by Jose Eduardo Baltazar Carmona and ridden by Miguel A. Rodriguez.
The Canadian Champion is Snow Moose, who races for breeder Milena Kwiecien. Sired by Separate Interest and trained by Jason Pascoe, the horse won five of nine starts and earned $54,672. He was ridden by J. B. Botello and Brian Bell, and his wins include the Ontario-Bred Derby and QROOI Open Derby.
Dr. Steve D. Burns is a repeat winner of the champion breeder title after a year that included breeding two champions. Horses he bred won 117 races and earned more than $4.7 million to lead all breeders by money earned.
West Texas Racing Partner is new to the champion stage as the sport’s top owner. Consisting of Joe Dee Brooks and Scott Bryant, they raced the winners of seven races and the earners of $1,615,493, led by champion Cowboys Gun Z.
Gathering his first nod as the Blane Schvaneveldt Champion Trainer, Wesley Todd Giles trained 74 winners and the earners of more than $3.4 million. Among them is the sport’s all-time leading money earner, KJ Desparado, who during the year became the first horse to surpass $3 million in career earnings.
Jockey Francisco Calderon set a single-year earning record and was named the champion jockey. His mounts earned $7,210,173, and include champions Danjer, Trane Station V, Dark NME, and The Grand Legend.
For more information on AQHA racing, visit www.aqha.com/racing.