A great season for the racing stable of Dr. Steve Burns and the Burns Ranch turned exceptional after their homebred filly Little Talks held off Jaime Gomez’s Docs Best Card by a neck to win the $1,049,350 on Sunday at Los Alamitos.
Burns’ stable hit a high note earlier this year after having two horses qualify to the Grade 1 All American Futurity in second fastest qualifier Crooked Path and also Hatefulist, the latter a colt Burns campaigns in partnership with James Markum. Crooked Path and Hatefulist finished sixth and seventh, respectively, in the All American at Ruidoso Downs, but Burns’ first win in a million dollar race still came in 2015 thanks to Little Talks.
“This is a big thrill,” said Burns, who along with his wife Jo Rae, operates Burns Ranch in Menifee, California. “I thought we had a better shot to win this one than the All American.”
Burns was right.
Breaking from post number five, Little Talks broke just behind a couple of rivals in the 400-yard Golden State Futurity, but he flew late to sail past early leaders Walk Thru Crystal and the eventual runner-up Docs Best Card. Little Talks and Docs Best Card had previously dueled in the trials to the Golden State Million with Docs Best Card winning in a photo finish, but the filly made amends this time around. With Cesar De Alba aboard for trainer Mike Casselman, Little Talks covered the distance in :19.934 while earnings $426,447 for the win. Her victory also ended Walk Thru Crystal’s dreams of becoming the first winner of the $1 million Los Alamitos Cash Bonanza, which serves as the track’s version of the Triple Crown.
The winner of the Ed Burke Million and Kindergarten Futurity, Walk Thru Crystal broke sharply in the Golden State Million, but came up short in the final 100 yards and had to settle with fourth place. EG High Desert Farms’ Walk Thru Crystal was hoping to win the Golden State Million and then the Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity to become the first winner of the Los Alamitos Cash Bonanza. Her task of winning the Golden State Million became more difficult after she was one of four horses to break through the gate prior to the start of the race. A fifth horse, Rosenthal Ranch LLC’s Fire At Will, flipped inside the gate and had to be scratched. Docs Best Card, Rancho El Alacran’s Mi Viejo and John Andreini’s Gotcha Bella also broke through the gate.
Yet, Little Talks, a filly Burns named after the title of the hit song by the Icelandic band Of Monsters And Men, remained as quiet as a mouse.
“She was pretty good back there,” said jockey Cesar De Alba. “She handled everything extremely well. She did not get any more excited. She kept her cool. She broke well, but a couple of horses were ahead of us. That’s been the case with her. She has to do the catching up, which is fine as long as she eventually does catch up. Maybe after like 300 to 350 yards I felt that we had them. I didn’t think we were going to catch Walk Thru Crystal. She was in front of me, but then I started seeing that we were making up ground. Docs Best Card lugged in a little and I thought that maybe he lost his momentum. I started thinking that we had the race.”
De Alba and Casselman each picked up the richest wins of their career thanks to Little Talks.
“I finished second in this race three years ago with Seperate Interest so I’m excited to win it,” Casselman said. “I was really nervous with all the commotion in the gate, but it didn’t bother her. Cesar knows her well and this filly has matured a great deal. We gave her some time off after she ran in the Governor’s Cup Futurity (on July 25) and I could see a difference in her when she came back. She did get a little hot in the paddock before this race, but it’s because she sometimes gets a little claustrophobic. She likes to be out in the open.”
Little Talks’ victory in the Golden State Million gave her freshman stallion Favorite Cartel, the biggest win of his young career. Favorite Cartels is also the sire of the aforementioned All American finalist Crooked Path.
“I own 50 percent of Favorite Cartel and Paul Jones and Thompson Racing owns the other half. It’s great for the stallion and our partners,” said Burns, who now joins Ed Allred and Carl Pevehouse as only the third breeder this year with earnings of over $2 million.
“We’re trying to prove our own stallion, but maybe he’s proving our mares,” Jo Rae Burns said. “Favorite Cartel is such a nice horse to be around. His babies seem to be very smart. That’s half of the battle right there. We have to make all our living in the horse business so we usually sell almost everything that we breed. We ended up keeping Little Talks because we had several babies out of Babe On The Fly and with Favorite Cartel being a first-year sire we didn’t know how much she would bring at auction.”
“She also had a little wound on her shin,” Burns added.
The filly with the “little wound” ended up giving Burns Ranch their biggest win ever.
“We won our first stakes race in 1978 with a horse named Miss Pink Signal,” Jo Rae added. “She won the Timberline Derby at Centennial Race Track. It was right after Steve and I got married and she was the first racehorse I ever owned. We’ve won a few little stakes races ever since and have been fortunate to make some stakes finals with some of our horses and with some that we co-own with our partners. This is a great feeling.”
And chances are that the song “Little Talks” will be played more than once at the Burns Ranch in the days to come.
“They should have been played it in the winner’s circle,” Jo Rae added with a smile.
Ridden by Oscar Peinado for owner/trainer Jaime Gomez, Docs Best Card earned $172,610 for his game second place finish in the Golden State Million. The colt by Corona Cartel has now been second in three major futurities at Los Alamitos this season. He was second to Walk Thru Crystal in the Kindergarten Futurity and Ed Burke Million Futurity. He also ran in the PCQHRA Breeders Futurity.
“He hit the gate hard when he broke through it,” Gomez said. “He heard something and he tried to break. It’s no one’s fault. Things happen. If he doesn’t do that he may have won this race. The only one that I’ve seen win a race after breaking through the gate is (AQHA Champion) Four Forty Blast. It’s not easy. You have to be a Four Forty Blast, but Docs Best Card almost did it.”
Ridden by Cody Jensen for trainer Chris O’Dell, Thermonuclear Energy flew late to finish in third place from the outside post number eight. Owned by Parsons Family Limited Partnership, the filly by Walk Thru Fire earned $121,842 for her third place finish. She’s hit the board in all five of her career starts.
EG High Desert Farms’ Walk Thru Crystal earned $71,075 for running fourth. Jesus Rios Ayala rode the filly by Walk Thru Crystal for trainer Yanet Rodriguez.
“What happened in the gate affected her,” said Rios Ayala. “She got a little deflated. She still ran a great race. She was right there early on. She was on the lead.”
The complete order of finish is as follows: Little Talks, Docs Best Card, Thermonuclear Energy, Walk Thru Crystal, Mi Viejo, El Karma, Gotcha Bella, and Favorite Kiss. Fire At Will, who came into the race with four wins from seven starts, had to be scratched after he became very flipped in the gate.
“He kept kicking the gate with his back feet,” said track veterinarian Becky Fitzgerald, DVM. “He kicked it pretty hard.”