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Thomas H. Burns

Thomas H. Burns
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     Thomas Burns was born in Canada in 1879 and rode his first winner on June 1, 1895, a filly named Gwendoline, at a track in Hamilton, Ontario. Three years later, at age 19, Burns was the leading rider in North America.

    Burns led all North American jockeys in victories in both 1898 and 1899. In 1898, he won on 28 percent of his mounts (277-for-973). His victories in 1898 included the Tennessee Derby aboard Lieber Karl, and the Wheeler Handicap at Washington Park aboard Algol. In 1899, he rode F.W. Bode to victory in a three-horse match race over a mile in 1:39½, which was then the fastest time ever at the distance for a 3-year-old.

    In 1900, Burns won the St. Louis Derby on Sam Phillips, guided Hall of Famer Imp to victory in the Second Special at Gravesend, and won the second of his three Manhattan Handicaps with Firearm. He also won the Manhattan in 1899 (O’Leary) and 1903 (Castalian). Burns won the Long Island Handicap in 1901 (Gold Heels) and 1905 (Proper), the Ladies Handicap in 1902 (Blue Girl) and 1903 (Girdle), and the Carlton Stakes in 1902 (King Hanover) and 1903 (Reliable).

    Burns won the Metropolitan Handicap with W.C. Whitney’s Gunfire in 1903 and the Brooklyn Handicap with James R. Keene’s Delhi in 1905. He guided Caughnawaga to victory in both the Saratoga Handicap and Twin City Handicap in 1905, and won his second Tennessee Derby in 1906 with Lady Navarre, which he also rode to victory in the Tennessee Oaks.

    One of Burns’ most famous mounts was the Hall of Famer Broomstick. In 1904, when Broomstick was a 3-year-old, Burns won the Brighton Handicap and Travers Stakes on the colt, which carried 129 pounds in the latter. The Brighton at that time ranked with the Metropolitan, Brooklyn, and Suburban as a handicap of major status, and Burns and Broomstick beat older champion Irish Lad. The time of 2:02⅘ set an American record for 1¼ miles, which stood until Broomstick's son, Hall of Famer Whisk Broom II, won the 1913 Suburban.

    When legislation threatened racing in the United States during the first decade of the 20th century, Burns decided to ride overseas. He found considerable success in both France and Germany, including wins in several steeplechase events.

    Burns returned to the United States at the end of the 1913 European season to rest before a planned return to Germany in 1914. However, Burns was struck and killed by a train in New York on Nov. 15, 1913. He was 34, and at the time considered one of the best riders in the world.

    Thomas Burns was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1983.