Running With the Best: Faster Than Hasta Nominated for AQHA Champion Award
John Johnson of Lemmon, South Dakota, has had his hands on horses for most of his life. His father raised horses for the US Army Remount program when he was a child; now his sons Bob and Gary and their families raise and train racing Quarter Horses. The horses have put the Johnson Ranch on the map even though it is a long ways off the beaten path.
The family ranch on the Grand River in Perkins County is home to Bob and Gary’s stallion, Hasta Be Fast, a grandson of Dash For Cash and Special Effort. His colts have done well on the racetrack for them, particularly Faster Than Hasta, a six year old bay gelding affectionately dubbed ‘HB’.
Bob trained and raced HB’s dam, Leadmetoyourladder, a double bred Dash For Cash mare, through her five year old year for her owner Cheri Wardell. After a successful career on the track, the mare was bred to Hasta Be Fast, and John now owns three colts out of this cross.
“John owns all three full brothers,” Bob said. “The oldest one, Hasta Be A Leader, won $108,000. Six year old Faster Than Hasta has won $226,000, and the youngest one, Fastest Leader is still racing. The first two looked so much alike that you couldn’t tell them apart. The youngest one is shorter and stouter but they all have the same marking.”
Faster Than Hasta has done well in 400 and 440 yard races, but last year Bob moved him out to longer distances. He found his stride at 870 yards, winning three times in a row and taking second by a nose in four starts.
“He got run over too many times at short distances,” Bob said, “So he was hanging back. That just shows his intelligence! I had wanted to move him out to 870 yards two years ago, but he was paid into the Bank of America futurities at 440 so we had to stick with that.”
Faster Than Hasta was nominated for the 2020 American Quarter Horse Association Distance Champion award. Bob and his wife Shilo traveled to Oklahoma City for the awards banquet. While HB didn’t win the top honors, the family considers it a privilege to have a home bred horse nominated for the prestigious prize.
“It shows that we can run with the best,” John said. “It’s pretty neat to have a horse from Perkins County in the running for this award.”
Faster Than Hasta is only the second South Dakota horse to be nominated for an AQHA racing champion award, following the 2011 bay stallion He’s Relentless.
“It’s cool as hell just to get nominated for something like this,” Bob said. “He was in a field of ten horses worldwide nominated; including horses from Brazil, South America and Canada. I know a lot of people who have horses like this in their barn, but they go year round. We go six months and then come home to the ranch. Racing is our life, but so is the ranch.”
Until HB tells them he’s done, Johnsons plan to keep racing him.
“He’s a very good horse,” Bob said. “He’s sound, a fun horse to be around, he’s friendly. He pulls Shilo’s cap off every time she comes in the barn. He takes it off, shakes it and then gives it back. They are good traveling partners; they’ve been all over—to California, to Albuquerque, to Denver. We’ll keep running him at 870 yards, and as long as he stays sound we’ll keep him running and see how he does.
“It’s unbelievable; people don’t realize that you get out of a horse what you put into them and it’s true of any breed. There’s nothing better for the inside of a human than the outside of a horse. My dad has spent close to eighty years messing with horses, and this is a once in a lifetime horse for him. For one to be the cream on top of a pile like that is a pretty big feather in his cap.”
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Jill Rigler is not your average 17 year old.