J. Francisco Diaz and Jose Flores’ Flokie edged Reliance Ranches LLC’s Dreams Divine by 1/1000ths of a second to win the Grade 1, $1,070,000 Ed Burke Million Futurity on Sunday night at Los Alamitos in the closest finish of the race since LD Fire and Streakin La Quinta dead-heated for the win in 2009.
Ridden by 22-year-old Jairo Rangel, who was picking up his first graded stakes win ever, the gelding by Favorite Cartel covered the 350 yards in :17.547, while Dreams Divine, a filly by Apollitical Jess, crossed the wire in :17.548. Purchased by Flores for $10,700 at the Heritage Place Winter Mixed Sale, the Lazy Creek Ranch-bred Flokie proved that he was no fluke in the final following his daylight win in the Ed Burke trials at 20-1. Flokie’s victory also helped J. Francisco Diaz become only the second Quarter Horse owner to win the Robert Adair Kindergarten Futurity and Ed Burke Million Futurity in the same year, but with different horses. Since the 1950s, those races have traditionally been the first two futurities on the Los Alamitos stakes calendar each year.
Diaz won this year’s Kindergarten with his homebred Chayito Cartel before partnering with Flores in the ownership of Flokie. The only other to accomplish this rare futurity double was Dutch Masters III in 2005 when Gold Nugget RD won the Kindergarten over a field that also featured their filly Higher Fire. She then returned to win the Ed Burke Million final and later the Golden State Million Futurity on the way to being named an AQHA champion while earning over a million dollars. It was those results by Gold Nugget RD and Higher Fire that elevated their sire, a young stallion named Walk Thru Fire, into the national Quarter Horse spotlight. It now appears that it’s Favorite Cartel who is continuing to rise, as he is the sire of both Flokie and Chayito Cartel and also of 2019 Ruidoso Futurity winner Fernweh.
Flores purchased Flokie as a short yearling for a bargain of price in January of 2018. He was one of the young runners that the veteran trainer signed for at the sale. Soon after, he called his longtime client and friend J. Francisco Diaz wondering if he had any interested in joining him in the ownership of four young prospects.
“I told him the price and he said ‘okay’ with no hesitation,” Flores said.
Diaz and Flores go back two decades in racing.
“I’m just so happy for me and this man,” Flores said of Diaz. “For a long time, he’s put a lot into this game. He’s two for two now – the Kindergarten and Ed Burke – and those are his first two major futurities. I trained for him 10-11 years. It’s been a good ride. His family is like family to me. He sent his son, Lindolfo Diaz, to work for me. J. Francisco would call me (Lindolfo’s) ‘teacher.’ He told me ‘if he learns something you let me know.’ Lindolfo (who trained the unbeaten Chayito Cartel) works very hard. He’s where he’s at right now because he works hard. We’ve had a lot of fun over the years and hopefully it continues.”
Flokie is now looking at some major trial races down the line for Flokie. Those could include the trials to the Grade 1 Golden State Million Futurity and the trials to the Los Alamitos Two Million Futurity. In the Ed Burke, he was second throughout until the final yards when he caught Dreams Divine. The fifth choice in the wagering at 6-1 odds, Flokie earned $432,600 in the Ed Burke to take his career earnings to $435,100 from two wins in three career starts.
“He’s in the Golden State Million Futurity trials and we’ll go from there,” Flores added. “Hopefully he pulls up good from this race and hope to get to the Two Million or the Golden State. We had a little bit of bad luck before the (Ed Burke) trials. He got a few scrapes and bumps but nothing serious. After he qualified to the Ed Burke final, J. Francisco Diaz sent me a bunch of mats so we matted all of his stall and bubbled wrapped him. He’s a character. He’ll get in trouble otherwise.”
With a big smile, but a bit of sore knee that is preventing him standing for too long, Diaz, who resides in San Diego, was enjoying the moment while seated on the orange bleacher seats on the Los Alamitos grandstand apron.
“It’s a proud moment,” he said. “I’m just filled with joy. This looks like our year. We have this horse in the Two Million trials. We’ll see how it goes. Jose and I have always been great friend. If ever needs anything he know I’m there and the same way if I need his help. We’ve been partners on horses before. On these horses, he had already selected them and purchased them. I went with him because I have full trust in him. In fact, I have never met the horse in person until today when he walked by me before the race. “Bebe’ Flores knows what he’s doing. I still can’t believe what’s happened.”
As for the talented pilot Rangel, the winner of the 2016 Val Tonks Award given to the year’s top young rider, the Ed Burke was his first graded stakes win and the third stakes of his career. His two other victories came in 2016, first with Closing Time in the $25,000 California Breeders Sprint Stakes in July and then with Kickin Seis in the $15,000 Fall For It Handicap in late September.
“I have to thank the owners, the grooms and the entire team,” he said. “What a great opportunity to ride in this big race, my first mount in a big race, and to win it feels great. You don’t win a race like that every day. This one is for my family, my wife and young son. On the night of the trials, we had a little bit of trouble. He fought me a little bit as we closer to the finish line in the trials. We worked with him and made improvements. He’s a good horse. He behaved well, broke with the leaders and ran like I expected that he would.”
Ridden by Ruben Castro for trainer Mike Robbins, Dreams Divine earned $175,100 for her runner-up effort. The Kelly, Yother, and Yearsley bred runner, who was purchased by Reliance Ranches for $112,000 at the Ruidoso Yearling Sale last year, entered this race as the fastest Ed Burke qualifier. She also ran third to Chayito Cartel in the Kindergarten final. Her career earnings after five starts – three of them being victories – is now $227,189.
“Flokie is a good horse,” Castro said. “He was king of green in his trial so I knew he would be a tough competitor. He just came and caught me at the wire. No excuses. This filly, Dreams Divine, she ran her butt off. That’s good horses. They’ll come around later in the year. They’re going to get better as they go if they stay sound. She acted great (in the gates). In the trials, she was getting a little anxious on us. Today she was relaxed. We got a good way to keep her calm. We’re doing good on that. She left good. She left in front. Ran a good race and just got outrun. It was a good race from the gates to the wire.”
Parsons Ranch’s Geothermal, who bumped on both sides, finished powerfully to run third. Ridden by Eduardo Nicasio for trainer Chris O’Dell, the Parsons Rock filly earned $123,600. R.D. and Shaun Hubbard’s Determined One ran fourth and was followed by Mental Error, Corona Required, Ventura Jess Jqm, Javelina Cantina and Tea Pod.
Earlier on the night, Ed Allred’s Nomadic won the $30,000 Ed Burke Memorial Juvenile for his second win in three career starts. The Favorite Cartel gelding was ridden by Vinnie Bednar for trainer Scott Willoughby.