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Higher Fire sets new stakes record in Ed Burke Million

June 25, 2005     E-mail this page to a friend!

Ed Burke Million final - Winning connections - trainer Jaime Gomez, Jockey J.R. Ramirez, Dutch Masters III's Denny Boer.
(photo by Scott Martinez)
By Orlando Gutirrez
LOS ALAMITOS RACE COURSE, CYPRESS, CA….  On a fishing trip in snow-covered Alaska, Dr. James Streelman of the famous Dutch Masters III had nothing but Fire on his mind Saturday night. Fire in the form of their filly Higher Fire, the 6-1 choice in the evening’s $1,145,000 Ed Burke Million Futurity at Los Alamitos Race Course.
       Anxious for information, Streelman hooked up with his Dutch Masters III’s partner Denny Boer via cell phone with the latter now responsible for providing his amigo with a step-by-step description of the nation’s richest Quarter Horse race so far this year.
       “And away they go…” Boer began with his best imitation of track announcer Ed Burgart. “I told Doc ‘We’re on the lead but the ten (Fishers Tale) might catch us.’ It was all happening so quickly and I was just watching our filly. Then, I told him, ‘He didn’t catch us. We just won.’ You should have heard him. He was going crazy.”
        With J.R. Ramirez aboard for trainer Jaime Gomez, Higher Fire had indeed just iced the competition thanks to a stakes record setting performance in the 55th running of the Ed Burke Million. In winning the first leg of the $1 million Los Alamitos Bonanza, the  track’s version of the Triple Crown, Higher Fire covered the 350 yards in :17.23 – 1/100ths of a second faster than the previous record set by Hawkish in 2003 and just missing the track record set by the great Corona Chick of :17.22 back in 1991.
         Now a winner of four of five starts, Higher Fire’s only defeat came when she finished third to Dutch Masters III’s Gold Nugget Rd in the Kindergarten Futurity. Higher Fire crossed the wire ? lengths ahead of Jim Glover and Ron Shalz’s Fishers Tale. James Azevedo and Charles Boyle’s Finding Nemo ran third followed by One Corona, Corona Crystal, Two Corona Special, Fishing In Chivato, Wave Carver, Identity Theft and Christie Jo Dash. Wave Carver, the 3-1 favorite, broke well but never exploded into contention while fastest qualifier Identity Theft acted up in the gate before breaking poorly.
         A sorrel filly by freshman sire Walk Thru Fire, Higher Fire earned $464,100 for the win to become the nation’s leading money winner with $504,173. And the sky is now the limit in terms of earnings for the filly once described as a ‘tank’ by Boer.
      As the winner of the first leg of the Bonanza, Higher Fire is eligible to earn a $1 million cash bonus if she goes on to win the Golden State Million on November 4 and finally the Los Alamitos Million on December 9. If Higher Fire accomplishes all that she could finish the year as Quarter Horse racing’s all-time leading money winner with over $2.5 million in earnings. Refrigerator is currently the all-time leading money winner with 2,126,309. The caveat? No one has claimed the Bonanza since the program’s inception in 1998.
       “I don’t think we’re going to run her in the Governor’s Cup Futurity trials in two weeks but that decision has yet to be made,” Boer said. “We will aim for the Golden State Million and then the Los Alamitos Million instead. We’re not going to send her to New Mexico for the All American either. Dr. Ed Allred (the owner of Los Alamitos) has three million dollar races at his track, so why leave town?
        “A couple of years ago we made a conscious effort to win the All American Futurity but we have yet to win that race and maybe we never will,” Boer continued. “We’ve had a lot of broken hearts out there so we’ll probably not go there for a while. We won’t have a stable there this year and the man that had our stable there, Lin Melton, is here at Los Alamitos. Higher Fire will stay here.”
          Boer and Streelman could have sold Higher Fire for a lot of money earlier this week. “They had a big offer on the table,” Gomez said. “Doc said, ‘we don’t need the money,’ so they kept her. They made ($464,100) plus they still have the filly. That’s not a bad deal. This filly is something else. She is very easy going and relaxed but once you put the blinkers on she just wants to go. She knows what she has to do at that point.”  
        Jaime Gomez is not only the trainer of Higher Fire; he is also the owner of her sire Walk Thru Fire. Gomez purchased the stallion at public auction after his three-year-old year.
        “He was owned by D. Wayne Lukas in a partnership that included E.K. Gaylord of Lazy E Ranch. Walk Thru Fire had qualified to the Los Alamitos Million, Golden State Million and El Primero Del Ano Derby. . I talked to Butch Wise about the horse and he told me that there was nothing wrong with him. I listened to Butch and he was right. He is my horse so to have Higher Fire win this race means a great deal to me. I can’t even explain how much it means to me.”
         The Ed Burke is serving as the first leg of the Bonanza for the first time this year. Prior to this year, the Ed Burke was slated as the second leg with the Kindergarten Futurity being the opening leg. Interestingly, Dutch Masters III won the first leg of the Bonanza twice with Secret Card in 2000 and Sassy Smith in 2001. Both of those talented fillies failed to win the second leg. Higher Fire’s victory is the first ever for Dutch Masters III in the Ed Burke.
         “Doc (Streelman) couldn’t be here because he already had this planned fishing trip with his son,” Boer said. “He stood by his commitment to his son. Instead we talked about three times on the phone while the races were going on. After the Ed Burke, Doc said ‘hey, maybe I’ll visit Alaska more often.’ ”
      Dutch Masters III sold Higher Fire’s dam, Higher Math, to Mike Abraham when Higher Fire was just a weanling. “We claimed Higher Math from Ed Allred I believe. We then sold her to Mike as part of a package that included a lot of other mares,” Boer said. “Higher Fire was just a weanling back then. I am just that we kept her.”
       Los Alamitos has hosted two Grade 1 futurities this year and Dutch Masters III, Jaime Gomez and jockey J.R. Ramirez have won them both. They won the Kindergarten Futurity with Gold Nugget Rd on May 14 and have now added the Ed Burke Million to their list. Ramirez, who moved from the Texas circuit to ride full-time for Dutch Masters III at Los Alamitos, said that Higher Fire’s ability to stay cool in the gate was a big key to the race.
      “The horses to outside of her acted her and I was concerned that she was going to act up as well,” he said. “She stayed calm and stood very quiet in the gate. She flew when they kicked the gate.
      “She was ready for this race. I felt she was a little flat in the Ed Burke trials because she had just raced a couple of weeks back in the Kindergarten. The last two weeks she had been feeling great and was on her toes. I didn’t have to do much tonight. She did it all.”
     One of the big storylines coming into the Ed Burke Million was the decision that G.R. Carter made when he chose eighth fastest qualifier Fishers Tale ahead of fastest qualifier Identity Theft. Carter had piloted both horses to victories in the Ed Burke trials three weeks back. Carter’s decision was vindicated when Fishers Tale finished a fast closing second in the Ed Burke Million.
      “I just felt that Fishers Tale might run a better race in the final. He got slammed out of the gates in the trials but he still ran great. I had no choice but to make a choice. You can’t take anything away from Higher Fire. We got beat by a horse that set a stakes record and almost broke the track record. I think Fishers Tale will get better.”          
       Fishers Tale earned $187,850 for finishing second. One of four runners in the Ed Burke sired by Fishers Dash, Fishers Tale is expected to make his next start for trainer Mike Joiner and owners Glover and Shalz in the trials to the All American Futurity at Ruidoso Downs in New Mexico.
      “He is a 440-yard type of horse,” Carter said.
      Vaughn Cook, Daniel Lucas, Muller Racing and Vessels Stallion Farm’s Wave Carver, the younger brother of champion 2-year-old Ocean Runaway, broke well from along the rail but never seriously challenged the leaders after the start. Wave Carver ran eighth. “He went in at the gap,” Gary Muller said. “He’ll be back. There’s still a lot of racing left this year.”
        Three-time champion trainer Paul Jones saddled Wave Carver. The trainer also saddled the fourth place finisher One Corona and fifth place finisher Corona Crystal. His two other starters in this race were seventh place finisher Fishing In Chivato and 10th place finisher Christie Jo Dash.
Here are the earning figures for the Ed Burke Million:
1st –   Higher Fire $464,100
2nd –  Fishers Tale $187,850
3rd –  Finding Nemo $132,600
4th –  One Corona $77,350
5th –  Corona Crystal $66,300
6th –  Two Corona Special $55,250
7th –  Fishing In Chivato $44,200
8th –  Wave Carver $33,150
9th – Identity Theft $22,100
10th -  Christie Jo Dash $22,100