It was close but no cigar in the first stakes try for Burns in the
opening-day Oceanside. The Barry Abrams-trained California-bred son of
Unusual Heat, owned by Madeline Auerbach, David Abrams and Sonny Pais,
closed strongly to pass six horses in the stretch and finish second,
beaten 1 ½ lengths by Mr. Commons in the one-mile turf event.
Now Burns is being elevated to the graded stakes level with a start
in Saturday’s Grade II, $150,000 La Jolla Handicap. And the connections’
hope is that Burns will heat up enough for a fourth win in 12 career
starts as part of a field of eight in the 1 1/16-mile turf assignment.
“He’s coming up to the race really well,” said Richard Baltas, the
on-site assistant for Abrams, who is recovering from surgery for throat
cancer at his Arcadia home. Burns worked four furlongs in :47.40 on
Sunday, nearly a second faster than an exercise over the same course a
“It’s a little more distance this time and I think we just ran into a really good horse last time in Mr. Commons,” Baltas said.
Mr. Commons was not entered in the La Jolla due to a foot bruise. But
the field strength didn’t suffer because trainer Bob Baffert will
saddle Santa Anita Derby winner Midnight Interlude, who prevailed in the
Tsunami Slew Handicap on June 17 at Hollywood Park in his grass debut
over La Jolla rivals Surrey Star and Temple’s Door.
“(Midnight Interlude) obviously wanted the grass last time and he’s
bred for the turf,” Baltas said. “But our horse is doing well and coming
into the race the right way so maybe we can get lucky.”
Abrams gave the stable a lift on Friday, August 5, when he showed up at Del Mar to saddle three horses in one race.
“Barry’s always upbeat and very positive, so it’s very good to see
him,” Baltas said. “We all wish him well. He’s had a tough time of it
but he’s still very active. He enters the horses and keeps tabs from
home. He’s holding down the fort.”
John Shirreffs, trainer of Oceanside winner Mr. Commons, said the
colt’s foot bruise is healing well and consideration is being given to a
start in the Grade II, $200,000 Del Mar Mile on Saturday, August 27 or
the $250,000, Grade II Del Mar Derby on Sunday, September 4. The Mile
would be against older horses; the Derby would be an eighth of mile
longer but is restricted to fellow 3-year-olds.