It was the long and the short of it for 6'5' western Pa.harness racing horseman Ron Burke in recent year-end honors balloting by the U.S. Harness Writers' Association.
Burke easily won the Glen Garnsey Trainer of the Year Award, with the largest surplus in all of this year's contests, but his ownership entity (Burke Racing LLC) and its combination with his good friends and main partners Mark Weaver and Mike Bruscemi (Weaver Bruscemi LLC) lost in the Norman Woolworth Owner of the Year competition to prominent Ontario horseman John Fielding -- by one vote.
Fielding is certainly deserving of his honor, having campaigned 16 horses that made $100,000 or more during the 2011 campaign. The most famous of them was the comet-blur 3-year-old pacing filly See You At Peelers, who will be regarded as one of her division's most talented horses, ever, but the Fielding barn also sent out Breeders Crown winners Cedar Dove (3-year-old trotting filly) and Uncle Peter (2-year-old trotting colt), thus putting him in second place in wins and money in the all-time series billed, "It All Comes Down to the Breeders Crown."
Fielding was also involved in a philanthropic effort in 2011, as he and his co-owners of the fast sophomore trotter Pastor Stephen donated five percent of the colt's earnings to "Pastor Stephen Racing for Africa," a charity established by the hometown minister of trainer Jimmy Takter to battle the desperate economic conditions of the subequatorial continent, especially in Malawi.
Ron Burke, long a master of the far-flung and successful raceway stable, had 790 winners at press time, more than head bobbing drivers Dan Noble and George Brennan, but this year marked a watershed for Burke after making his stable a major factor in many stakes in most divisions and at, seemingly, every track. His 2011 stable earnings are more than $18 million, more than two and one-half times those of his nearest foe.
The star of stars for Burke was the freshman pacing colt Sweet Lou (whom he co-owns with Weaver Bruscemi, Lawrence Karr, and Phil Collura), whose 1:49 victory in his Breeders Crown final on a cool autumn night at Woodbine was merely the fastest mile in harness history by a 2-year-old. Another Burke contender for season's honors -- which will be announced next Tuesday -- is the iron-sided Free For All pacer Foiled Again, who banked $1.4 million of his career $3.4 million cash flow this past campaign, and who lowered his mark to 1:48 at age seven.
Burke and Fielding will receive their individual awards -- and maybe some more for their champion equines -- at the Dan Patch Awards Dinner, honoring Stan Bergstein, to be held Sunday, Feb. 12, 2012 at the Double Tree Hilton at SeaWorld of Orlando.
For tickets to attend the banquet contact Steve Wolf at email@example.com; to take out a congratulatory ad in the Dinner Journal, for Fielding and/or Burke, in appreciation of Bergstein or to honor any other award winner, contact Kim Rinker at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reservations at the DoubleTree can be made by calling (800) 327-0363; mentioning "USHWA" or "DPA" should get you a discounted rate.
by Jerry Connors, for the U.S. Harness Writers' Association