Faster Than Hasta

Faster Than Hasta

A salute to a Challenge warrior who is set to make a historic start at the Challenge Championships.

2021 Challenge Championship Contenders

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By Andrea Caudill

Six years. 

Six trips to the paddock on Challenge Championships night: One for every year the extraordinary gelding Faster Than Hasta has been racing. 

On Saturday night, when the 7-year-old Wyoming-bred walks out on the racetrack for the Cox Ranch Distance Challenge Championship (G1), it will mark his sixth consecutive year competing at the Bank of America Challenge Championships. 

It will be the most appearances in the championship event by a horse, ever, in the history of the 21-year-old program. 

It will also be the 38th career start for Faster Than Hasta, who races for 90-year-old John G. Johnson, and is trained by John’s son, Robert “Bob” Johnson. The 2014 gelding has won or placed in 18 of his starts to date and earned $241,562. 

It is a testament to the durability of the horse and the dedication of his connections. 

“I’ve had vets look him over completely, and he has nothing (wrong),” Bob says. “Nothing. He’s just that kind of horse – he’s sound.” 

Bred by Wardell Quarter Horses, Faster Than Hasta is by the Johnson family’s stallion Hasta Be Fast and out of the graded stakes-placed Special Leader mare Leadmetoyourladder, whom Bob trained for the Wardells. John bought Faster Than Hasta as a yearling. 

Faster Than Hasta began his career in June 2016, clipping off his first stakes win – the $50,000 Minnesota Stallion Breeders’ Futurity – in his third career start. He was then second in the North Central QHRA Futurity and won the John Deere Prairie Meadows Juvenile Challenge. His very first appearance in the Challenge Championships was a fifth-place run in the John Deere Juvenile Challenge Championship (G2) at Los Alamitos. 

His sophomore year saw him win the Adequan® Prairie Meadows Derby Challenge and finish second in the Adequan® Derby Challenge Championship (G3) at Prairie Meadows. 

His third Challenge Championship appearance, again at Los Alamitos in 2018, was in the Bank of America Challenge Championship (G1) in which he encountered severe traffic and finished ninth. 

At 5 years old in 2019, Faster Than Hasta continued competing in graded stakes at Prairie Meadows, including lighting the board in the Bank of America Prairie Meadows Championship Challenge (G2). He would show up at The Downs at Albuquerque to light the board in the undercard Downs Casino Stakes. 

In 2020, the Johnsons saddled Faster Than Hasta to win the Covered Bridge Stakes (G3) at Prairie Meadows, and brought him for his fifth appearance at the Challenge Championships – a second-place run in the 870-yard Sandia Stakes on the undercard. The fifth appearance tied him with two other Challenge legends for number of times competing in the Challenge Championships – world champion Tailor Fit and champion Sign Of Lanty. 

This year, he won the AQHA Energy Downs Distance Challenge to punch his ticket for another Challenge Championship, and when he breaks from the gates in Albuquerque, he will create a record all his own. 

“It’s his consistency,” Bob said of the horse’s longevity. “No matter what we ask of him, he tries and tries hard.” 

Faster Than Hasta is well spoiled by his connections. He loves to work and go to the races, but also enjoys winters off at their South Dakota ranch, with a 4-acre pasture within view of the house to graze during nice weather, and a warm stall during those cold snaps.

The horse has set a record of longevity in the Challenge program and has rewarded his connections with 45 percent of his career earnings through the program intended to increase opportunity for horses of all ages.

“He can be a handful if he wants to be,” Bob said with fondness. “But he has been one of those horses that every time you lead him over, he’s a horse to beat.” 

His heart and drive are priceless.

Look for complete coverage of the Bank of America Challenge Championships at AQHA's website and on racing social media. If you can't attend the races live at The Downs at Albuquerque on October 23, watch on Q-Racing Video (subscription required)!