All American: Moonstruck

Can Mad About The Moon provide a big All American Futurity upset?

Q-Racing Journal

Mad About The Moon, a $5,000 yearling, is in contention for a million-dollar payday. PHOTO: Andrea Caudill

On Labor Day, Gene Burden will send out his first starter in the $2.6 million All American Futurity (G1).

In these few short hours left between now and then, he is prepping Mad About The Moon, a little $5,000 New Mexico-bred gelding, for the race of his life.

“I’ve run here at Ruidoso off and on over the years,” says Burden, 45. “But this is the first one I’ve qualified for the All American Futurity.”

Bred by Larry Hughes of Salida, Colorado, and Sarah Donaldson-Rioux (pronounced "rio") in the name of their Hughes Donaldson Horse Company of Deming, New Mexico, Mad About The Moon is a bay gelding by champion First Moonflash ($969,828), who set the :20.274 quarter-mile world record in 2009 at Sunland Park. Mad About The Moon is one of three winners and the earners of more than $187,000 from seven starters out of the winning I Be Streakin mare Streaking Power, a half-sister to Ongoing Ta Fame ($644,746, by Dash Ta Fame).

David Valdez of Odessa, Texas, purchased Mad About The Moon for $5,000 at the 2013 New Mexico-Bred Sale at Ruidoso Downs. Burden also trains Valdez’s Chicks A Blazin filly One Lethal Blaze ($100,670), who he sent out under Becerra to win the $85,320 Sunburst Stakes (R) on April 12 at Sunland Park.

“I’ve been lucky to have a really, really good year,” Burden says. “I love training for David Valdez. He’s a real good guy, he loves it and I love it, he enjoys it and I enjoy it, and that makes it fun. And I just want a clean trip for everybody, and I want to go and do as best we can.”

Making his third career start, Mad About The Moon finished second to Bodacious Eagle in the seventh heat on the second day of the All American trials. Mad About The Moon finished fourth in his first race, a May 30 trial to the Mountain Top Futurity (RG3), and then returned to win against maiden company on July 21. He goes into the North America’s richest race for 2-year-olds of any breed with a record of 3-1-1-0 and $6,748.

“He’s only run those three times,” Burden says. “He’s a real late baby (foaled May 13, 2012), so we didn’t run him in any races till we got here. In the Mountain Top trials, he ran fourth by three-quarters – didn’t break but ran really, really well on the end. Then he broke his maiden, broke mediocre but still won, by a length in maiden company. In the All American trials, he didn’t break as good as I think he can but he was running better on the end than he was on the beginning. That’s his race career.”

Mad About The Moon is off to a good start.

“He’s really good to mess with – good mind on him, real smart,” Burden says. “He’s a joy to be around.

“Conformation-wise, he is almost perfect,” he continues. “He’s a little small, but he is built proportionately for his stature. He’s maybe 15, 15-2; there are a lot of bigger 2-year-olds. But he is very balanced, very correct, a real nice individual. He’s got a nice, long stride, and the farther he goes the better he runs– the 440 distance is in his favor. If he just gets away from the gate a little sharper, he’ll be right there. He’s improved every time, breaking and running the whole race. So we just need a little improvement away from the gate. I feel real good about the horse. I really like him.”

Burden grew up in Lawton, Oklahoma, where his parents introduced him to the world of competitive horses and horsemanship.

“Dad rodeoed and trained racehorses,” he says. “My mom actually rode races a long, long time ago. Her name was Elizabeth, but they called her ‘Flaxey Burden’ because of her long blonde hair. She was pregnant with me when she was riding. My Dad rodeoed, my Mom was always in. And I rodeoed for awhile, too, rode bulls – of course – then I got sorta beat up and crippled. I’ve been in this business for awhile – I got my trainer’s license about 1990.”

Now he will saddle a starter in Quarter Horse racing’s signature event.

“I just really want a clean trip. If he’ll just break a hair better, he can definitely run with them. Everybody asks me if I think I have shot.

“Well, of course, I think I have a shot.”

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