In-Laws Team Up in Challenge Championships

November 18, 2010

Mike Burgess, who trains a stable of Thoroughbreds at Fair Grounds Race Course, will make his American Quarter Horse training debut on Friday evening when he saddles three horses during the 13-race card at the New Orleans track that features the Bank of America Racing Challenge Championships. In the $350,000 Bank of America Challenge Championship (G1), Burgess will send out two of those horses, Jess A Runner and Global Exciter.

Burgess' opportunity to saddle the sprinters is thanks to his longtime connection to American Quarter Horse racing. The son of noted American Quarter Horse jockey Jerry Burgess, who is now a steward, he also is a former jockey who rode a few times for Global Exciter's breeder and owner, Donalda Cochrane of Alberta, Canada. His brother-in-law is three-time AQHA Champion Jockey G.R. Carter Jr., who is married to his sister, Shaena.

Burgess said he met Carter when the two were aspiring jockeys. They bonded in part because they were the same age.

“I started riding whenever I was 16 in 1984 in Sallisaw, America, where every little kid in Oklahoma started riding,” said Burgess, now 42, in reference to now-defunct Blue Ribbon Downs.

After he retired from the saddle around 1995, Burgess became involved in Thoroughbred racing when he went to work for Jack Van Berg, a member of the sport's hall of fame. He later worked for trainer Kenny Smith and spent 6 1/2 years as an assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen.

In August, Carter rode J K Running Horses LLC's Jess A Runner to a regional Challenge victory at Prairie Meadows and suggested the connections send the 4-year-old Jess Louisiana Blue gelding to Burgess at Fair Grounds. Burgess has been impressed with Jess A Runner, who has three wins in six starts this year and set Prairie Meadows' 440-yard track record of :21.199 in his most recent race, the Two Rivers Stakes (G3), with Oscar Delgado aboard.

“We're trying real hard not to mess the horse up in 10 days,” Burgess joked. “If he has a clean break and gets running room in the first 50-60 yards, this horse is going to close big-time. This racetrack kinda suits a horse like that.”

Jerry Burgess will join his son and son-in-law at Fair Grounds, stopping in New Orleans during his trip to South Florida. After working at Lone Star Park in Texas, he will be a steward for the second consecutive year at Hialeah Park in Miami, where his wife (and Mike's mother), Georgia, is the food and beverage director for the Miami Dolphins.

Mike Burgess and Carter will team up in the first race on Friday, The Los Alamitos Stakes at 870 yards, with Larry Wade's Street Meter. Post time for that race is 5 p.m. Central.

For the first time, the Bank of America Challenge Championships will be featured on Horse Racing TV and available to the channel’s 17 million subscribers, as well as free to view on AQHA’s Q-Racing Video. During the “free weekend,” nonsubscribers will be asked for a valid e-mail address to access the site. Q-Racing Video will be free and open to the world from 8 a.m. Friday, November 19, through the evening of Sunday, November 21. BY AMY OWENS