EG High Desert Farms’ Walk Thru Crystal improved to a perfect five for five after winning her second futurity of the year with an easy victory in the Grade 1, $1,040,000 Ed Burke Million Futurity on Sunday at Los Alamitos.
Ridden by Alejandro Luna for trainer Yanet Rodriguez, Walk Thru Crystal led right from the start and never looked back in winning the Ed Burke Million in a time of :17.562. The win gives Walk Thru Crystal a chance to become the first ever winner of the $1 million Los Alamitos Cash Bonanza, which serves as the track’s Triple Crown series. The Ed Burke Million is the first leg of the Los Alamitos Cash Bonanza. The other two legs are the Golden State Million Futurity on November 1 and the Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity on December 13.
The Ed Burke Million had a similar feel to the Kindergarten Futurity held earlier this year. In the May 17 Kindergarten, Walk Thru Crystal was an impressive wire-to-wire winner over Jaime Gomez’s Docs Best Card. It was the 1-2 combination in the Ed Burke Million, as Walk Thru Crystal led from the starting gate to the finish line with Docs Best Card chasing her tail in this race a well.
Catching Walk Thru Crystal has simply been an impossible task. Bred by La Presita LLC and Armando Leon, the filly by Walk Thru Fire won her career debut by 1 ½ lengths before posting wins by a neck, a half-length, a length, and now this ¾ length masterpiece win in the Ed Burke Million. Walk Thru Crystal’s latest win left her owner and trainer searching for words to describe the unbeaten filly’s performance.
“She’s tough,” said Enrique Gonzalez of EG High Desert Farms. “I was a little nervous before the race because she was going against tough field. Any of those nine horses could have won this race. Watching the race I see the gates open and I noticed that she was quick out of the gate. At that point I see that I have a chance. She’s a small filly, but she keeps going the longer the race. She’s good at 350 and she can run 400. When I saw that she just kept going I started getting happy. Next for her will be the Golden State Million. We’ll see if she comes back in good form. She’s already done a lot.”
Walk Thru Crystal earned $420,000 for the win to take her career earnings to $551,720, which makes her the nation’s leading money winner. Her five victories tie her with Bac In Front and Premier Ethics for most by a Quarter Horse this season.
A second generation trainer, Rodriguez has been training exclusively for Gonzalez this season. The results have been career changing for Rodriguez, who previously enjoyed good success with claiming horses and allowance level runners, before winning her first two graded stakes races ever thanks to Walk Thru Crystal.
“I’m very emotional right now,” Rodriguez said. “When the race was about to start I just closed my eyes and prayed that I would hear her name call during the race. I just went to a corner at the back of the building and closed my eyes. I couldn’t watch it. Then I heard her name and then I heard it again. I opened my eyes and I said, ‘Oh my goodness!’ My family, my dad, they were hear for the Kindergarten. I had a lot more family here tonight. Tonight is Father’s Day so to have my dad here to see this is very special.”
Rodriguez’s dad is Santiago Rodriguez, who was a mainstay Quarter Horse trainer at Los Alamitos during the 1990s and early 2000s.
“This is a great Father’s Day,” he said. “I’m very proud of my daughter and very thankful that Mr. Enrique Gonzalez has given her this opportunity. Yanet and Alejandro and the rest of their barn have formed a great team.”
Rodriguez now has some time to map out a racing strategy surrounding Walk Thru Crystal’s quest to win the Los Alamitos Cash Bonanza.
“We’ll take it one day at a time,” she said. “She got the job done. She’s been improving and time will say what’s next. We’ll give her some time off, but she’ll stay here at the track. We’ll keep a good eye on her. We kept the same routine with her after the Kindergarten. Why change anything? It’s worked great so far.
“Maybe we’ll give her one race before the trials to the Golden State Million just to get her fit,” she added. “We’ll see how she does and how she feels. I’m blessed and I can’t ask for any more. Alejandro and I, we are a couple and I think that’s an advantage. He knows his part and I don’t have to tell him what to do.”
Owned and trained by Jaime Gomez, Docs Best Card was second again to Walk Thru Crystal. The effort still earned the son of Corona Cartel a nice payout of $170,000 to take his career earnings to $226,795. He’s finished in the top two in all five of his career starts.
“No excuses in this race,” Gomez said. “He ran a good race and (Walk Thru Crystal) ran faster.”
“We had a good break,” said Carlos Huerta, who piloted Docs Best Card. “No mistakes from Docs Best Card and no mistakes from Walk Thru Crystal. She’s just a very good filly. I have a lot of respect for her. I tip my hat to her. She has heart and she’s very smart. I’m chasing her and I can see that she starts slowing down all on her right after she crosses the finish line. By the time we get to the turn and are pulling up our horses she’s already stopped. She’s just super smart. I’m happy for ‘Pee Wee’ Luna and Yanet Rodriguez. They’ve work very hard for a long time and they deserve this. Pee Wee is a jockey’s jockey. I get along great with all the riders, but Pee Wee is a great person. He’s been here a long time and is someone that the young guys can look up to. I have great admiration for him.”
Just like he did in the trials, Ed Allred’s Sale Topper came flying once again in the final 150 yards. Also sired by Walk Thru Fire, the gelding rallied from eighth place at the start to finish third. His big, late move earned him $120,000. Ramon Sanchez piloted him for trainer Scott Willoughby. Howard Nichols’ We Like Corona earned $70,000 for finishing fourth for trainer Jose Flores and jockey Cruz Mendez. Budder Think Twice, Toughie, Bookish, Rolll Tide, and Thru The Night completed the field.
S-Quarter K LLC was in the winner’s circle for the second year in a row on the night of the Ed Burke Million. The Washington-based Quarter Horse racing operation won the Ed Burke with champion 2-year-old gelding Heza Dasha Fire last year. This year S-Quarter K won the $25,000 Ed Burke Memorial Juvenile with Heza Dasha Fire’s half brother, Ima Fearless Hero. Ridden by Cruz Mendez and trainer Jose Flores, Ima Fearless Hero led every step of the 350-yard race to win by a half-length. Ima Fearless Hero covered the distance in :17.737. The trainer swept the top three spots in the Ed Burke Juvenile, as he also saddled runner-up Ivys Storm and third place finisher The Fed X Choice.