TOBA March Member of the Month


Friends and family are the name of the game for Brian Burns’ Mount Joy Stables. He named his first purchase after his own father—and promptly achieved graded success. More recently, Burns partnered with his longtime friends, the McLeans of Crestwood Farm, to breed Got Stormy. That multimillionaire mare made her six-year-old debut on February 27, capturing the Honey Fox Stakes (G3T).

Burns is savoring life. Last year, after a riding accident, he fractured 11 ribs, punctured a lung, and went into septic shock; while in the hospital, was pronounced dead for two hours. “The doctors said they’d done everything they could,” he recalled. “They were calling Jan, my wife, to turn the machine off.” Suddenly, Burns’ blood pressure came back and he, quite literally, came back to life. Nine days later, he went home; today, despite displaced ribs, he’s thriving.

Burns’ interest in horses came from his father, Jimmy. “My father came from Ireland and, being Irish, made me love the horses,” he explained. “I was raised in New York and we used to go to Belmont Racetrack on Saturday mornings. Never went to the races—not once—but we’d go in the morning to watch the horses work, because he said, ‘This is the greatest animal. They give you everything they got. It might not be enough, but they give you everything they got.’” 

Father and son planned to buy a horse, but Jimmy died before the dream could become a reality. To honor Jimmy’s memory, Burns’ wife and mother persuaded him to purchase a Thoroughbred; Burns attended the March 1991 Ocala Breeders’ Sale of Two-Year-Olds in Training, buying a colt for $20,00 with bloodstock agent Chuck Calvin. He named the horse after his father, who, when called Mr. Burns, would always reply, “The name’s Jimmy.” The Name’s Jimmy won the 1992 Will Rogers Handicap (G3T) and American Derby (G2T).

At the 1994 Keeneland September Yearling sale, Burns bought a Known Fact filly from Nuckols Farm for $18,000. She was so crooked, her legs paddling as she walked, that Burns named her Twin Propellers. Winner of the 1996 Thelma Stakes, “Twinnie” didn’t pass on her conformation, but she did pass on her heart. Her French Deputy filly Air France produced two graded stakes winners: 2011 Sanford Stakes (G2) victor Overdriven (by Tale of the Cat ) and Smooth Air (by Smooth Jazz). Second to Big Brown  in the 2008 Florida Derby (G1), Smooth Air ran eleventh in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) before tallying the Ohio Derby (G2), adding the Gulfstream Park Handicap (G2) at four. Both “Jimmy” and Smooth Air wound up at Michael Blowen’s Old Friends Equine retirement facility.

Burns boards his 58 broodmares at Crestwood. “We got in the game to breed to sell to pay for the racing, to be honest,” he said, “and if they didn’t get the price that we wanted, we’d race the horses. And in fact, one horse, Predawn Raid, nobody would give me a thousand for him and he won the [2003] Fred [W.] Hooper [Handicap], which was a grade three.”

Air France also foaled Mount Joy homebred Super Phoebe (by Malabar Gold). “What happened was, when Super Phoebe was born, I put her in the ring and she went to Puerto Rico and she won nine races there,” said Burns. “So, I got in touch with the owner there and brought her back into the United States and I bred her, and she kept having small foals, which is common in her family.” Bred this March to Nyquist , she has a Bolt d’Oro  yearling colt and two-year-old Mohaymen  colt.

Super Phoebe produced a filly by Crestwood’s Get Stormy  in 2015. Named Got Stormy, she has won 11 of 27 starts and earned $2,096,553. In the 2019 Fourstardave Handicap (G1T), she beat the boys, setting a new mile course record at Saratoga, and finished second in the TVG Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1T). 

“Twinnie”’s descendants still populate Burns’ broodmare band. “Pope [McLean] and I firmly believe it’s the female families that make racehorses,” he mused, “and when you’re lucky enough…if it’s a boy, it’d go in the ring; colts, I’d sell, but the girls from the family, they stay with me now. Because of my age, I’d phased down from that. We were breeding 50 babies a year, going to all these stallions, picking the matings, and everything. Now, we want to try one more time to get to the big dance.”

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