I adopted Giant Moon late. When he was a three-year-old, I was obsessed with Saratoga Russell; they raced against each other in the 2008 Gotham. Saratoga Russell finished next to last, Giant Moon right behind him.
Undeterred, Giant Moon’s connections – owner Albert Fried, Jr. and trainer Rick Schosberg – brought the son of Giant’s Causeway and Moonlightandbeauty back in the Wood Memorial, where he finished fourth, and the Preakness, where he finished eighth.
And that was the last that Giant Moon saw of the racetrack for a while, as the physical problems that would plague him throughout his career took their toll. Giant Moon came back in February 2009, in the Rough Rogue, finishing second; he got his first win in more than a year in the Mr. G.J.G. at Aqueduct on March 6, 2009.
His next race was a breakthrough of sorts: he won the Grade 3 Excelsior Handicap on April 4, beating Cool Coal Man and Barrier Reef, and it was after that race that I became friendly with his trainer. After an expansive interview following the race, Schosberg said, leaving the winner’s circle, “That was better than a Rangers’ win!” A trainer who loved hockey, who loved my team? It begged for follow-up.
I interviewed Rick the next month, and thereafter, when I would visit the Schosberg barn, I’d stop to say hello to Moon. He didn’t seem to much care – he’d be psyched for treats, but really, he didn’t need some unknown human coming to see him; he was good and he knew it. He was the Big Horse, and his stance was imperious. My gifts were his due, not particularly worthy of special equine appreciation.
Following the Excelsior, Giant Moon ran on the turf for the first time in his career, over a soft course in the Kingston; Schosberg said that the soft going had left the horse sore and “out of whack”; off for nearly a year, Giant Moon recorded his second straight last place finish in the Grade 3 Westchester in April of 2010.
But last summer was a good one for Giant Moon. He won an optional claimer in May and was second in another in June, second to Haynesfield, and when he got to Saratoga, he kicked off the meet with a win over Icabad Crane in the Evan Shipman on a glorious summer afternoon. He was second in the Salute Me Sir back at Belmont.
The fall wasn’t quite so kind to the six-year-old bay; seventh in the Empire Classic, he finished the year with a couple of fourth place finishes. Schosberg told Daily Racing Form that the horse was sent to the farm for a freshening in early January.
That freshening took an unexpected turn when Giant Moon developed a case of laminitis, and last week he died at his owner’s farm. Said Schosberg in the Form, “This came totally out of the blue. It’s really, really tragic for everybody in our barn and on the farm. We’re all walking around in a daze right now.”
After Giant Moon won the Excelsior, Schosberg alluded to the foot problems that had kept the horse off the track. “Ray Galluscio does a phenomenal job on his feet…We needed to be patient and let him heal up. His feet now look the way they did when God put them on; after the Preakness, there was a little rotation, which is scary in a Thoroughbred.”
Scary indeed, and Schosberg was careful with Giant Moon, berating himself when the horse didn’t do well. “…If he’s been beaten a long ways,” he said last summer, “it’s because I made a mistake…If he’s right, and I try to stay out of his way managing him, he’s going to put in an effort like [the Evan Shipman].”
Here he is, almost two years ago, winning the Excelsior at Aqueduct. Video of the Evan Shipman isn’t available to embed, but with a free account, you can watch it at Cal Racing: Saratoga, July 26, 2010, race #3. Take a look – the stretch run is awesome.
You can find a small photo gallery of Giant Moon here. Other Brooklyn Backstretch stories about him:
Giant Moon wins the Excelsior, April 2009
Profile of Rick Schosberg, June 2009
Giant Moon wins the Evan Shipman, July 2010