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Burns Earns His Apple Tree

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In a solitary moment with her 3-year-old gelding Burns before Saturday’s La Jolla Handicap, owner Madeline Auerbach said “Burnie, if you win this race, I’m going to get you your own apple tree.”

Burns produced the victory, by a desperate neck, in the $150,000, Grade II, 1 1/16-mile turf run. A win that ended an 0-for-27 Del Mar slump for the stable of trainer Barry Abrams lifted spirits for all familiar with Abrams’ current battle with throat cancer, and could pay Red Delicious dividends for Burns.

“I got a text from Barry this morning, ‘Where are you going to get an apple tree?” Auerbach said Sunday. “I guess that’s my task for the day…(Burns) loves apples.  I’ve never had a horse that eats apples like him.”

Burns ate up ground in huge chunks in the stretch under Patrick Valenzuela to provide Abrams with his first Del Mar stakes victory since 2009 and 13th in his career. Burns, a son of the Abrams/Auerbach prodigious California stallion Unusual Heat, came out of the race well and, if that remains the case, will go next in the $250,000 Del Mar Derby on Sunday, Sept. 4.

“We nominated him for the Triple Crown races, that’s how much we thought of him,” Auerbach said. “We think he’s going to get better as the distances get longer.”


La Jolla runner-up Lil Bit O’Fun came out of the La Jolla fine, said Mary Donald, assistant to trainer Tom Proctor.  A decision regarding the Del Mar Derby, with Lil  Bit O’Fun and other 3-year-olds in the stable, will be made at a later date.

Trevor Denman’s call during the race that the saddle slipped on Little  Bit  O’Fun was apparently based on an optical illusion.

“He’s a small horse, he was throwing his head back and there’s just not a lot of neck there, so it looked like (jockey David Flores)  was up forward, but the saddle didn’t slip,” Donald said.

Doug O’Neill, trainer of third-place Thirtyfirststreet, said he was pleased with and proud of the third-place effort by Thirtyfirststreet. The Good Journey colt, winner of the Lone Star Derby in May,  had shipped back to Del Mar late last month after a disappointing tenth of 12, beaten 20 lengths, in the Virginia Derby.

A next start will be determined after consultation with the owners.

Midnight Interlude, fourth as the even-money favorite, was the victim of an unlucky trip in the assessment of trainer Bob Baffert.

“That’s turf racing. You’ve just got to look forward to the next race,” Baffert said, indicating that would be the Del Mar Derby. “He’ll be fine.” 

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