Freehold, NJ --- It might run counter to trainer Ron Burke’s intuition, but less appears to be more with Sweet Lou.
Burke changed Sweet Lou’s between-race routine and the 5-year-old male pacer has responded with a four-race win streak heading into Saturday’s (June 28) $500,000 Ben Franklin Pace at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs.
It is Sweet Lou’s longest streak since putting together six consecutive victories bridging his 2- and 3-year-old seasons. Sweet Lou was the 2011 Dan Patch Award winner as harness racing’s best 2-year-old male pacer and earned more than $1 million at age 3, but endured a stretch of just four wins in 31 starts prior to his recent surge.
“We’ve backed off on him and he’s become more like a Thoroughbred,” Burke said. “I can’t ask him to race four weeks in a row; I can’t ask him to train in between when he’s racing. I just give him weeks now where he basically jogs and hangs out in the field.
“It kills me, because I’m thinking that he’s getting unfit. But I’ve watched him and he just blows back up and starts to look strong again. Then I’ll give him one hard fast work before he races and he seems to race great.”
Saturday’s card at Pocono Downs also includes the $500,000 Max C. Hempt Memorial for 3-year-old pacers, the $500,000 Earl Beal Jr. Memorial for 3-year-old trotters, the $300,000 James M. Lynch Memorial for 3-year-old female pacers, and the $100,000 Sun Invitational for older trotters.
Post time is 6:30 p.m. for the first race. The Sun Invitational is race No. 8 and will be followed by the four stakes.
Sweet Lou, who won his Franklin elimination by four lengths over Bolt The Duer in 1:47.4 last weekend, drew post four in the final.
Three other Burke horses -- Bettor’s Edge, Allstar Legend, and Foiled Again -- will all start inside of Sweet Lou while Domethatagain, who edged Captaintreacherous by a nose to win the other Franklin elim in 1:48, got post five. Captaintreacherous, the two-time defending Pacer of the Year, leaves from post eight.
“I was very impressed with the way (Sweet Lou) raced the other day,” Burke said. “He’s come back as the horse we always thought he would be.”
Sweet Lou’s win streak also coincides with Ron Pierce becoming his driver.
“Pierce maybe has a different strategy of how to race him and so far it’s been good,” Burke said. “Everything right now is working good, so we’ll just keep doing it the same way until we need to make a change.”
In addition to his quartet in the Franklin, Burke will send At Press Time and All Bets Off into the Hempt, Sayitall BB and Southwind Silence into the Lynch, and Amped Up Hanover into the Beal.
All Bets Off, who won the Art Rooney Pace at Yonkers in May, and At Press Time captured their respective Hempt eliminations. All Bets Off has won five of six starts this year; At Press Time bounced back from a third-place finish in a division of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes with the addition of Lasix.
“I knew At Press Time would be better,” Burke said. “We did some work on him in between (starts) and got him straighter and he bled very badly. It wasn’t a question of whether we should put him on Lasix, he really needed Lasix. I was happy with his performance.
“(All Bets Off) is a very good horse. He’s top five; he’s as good as any horse out there, I think. He can go either way. He had to be pulled to a stop at the top of the lane (in his elim) and most of my horses if you pulled them to a stop like that they wouldn’t fire again. And he did.”
The Hempt field also includes McWicked, who won the fastest elimination, in 1:48.
Jimmy Takter-trained trotters Father Patrick and Nuncio headline the Beal. Both won their eliminations, with Father Patrick extending his win streak to 13 races dating back to last July. Father Patrick was the 2013 Dan Patch Award winner for best 2-year-old male trotter. Nuncio was a stakes winner and four-time runner-up to Father Patrick last season. This is their first meeting as 3-year-olds.
Cinamony, Fancy Desire, and Weeper all won Lynch eliminations. Cinamony and Fancy Desire were supplemented to the Lynch for $15,000. The final also includes multiple-stakes-winner Uffizi Hanover.
Sebastian K, who is 3-for-3 since arriving in North America from Sweden, headlines the Sun Invitational. The race also includes Market Share, who is a two-time Dan Patch Award winner.
Following are the fields in post order with listed drivers and trainers:
Race 8, $100,000 Sun Invitational – 1. Arch Madness, Brian Sears, Trond Smedshammer; 2. Sevruga, Ron Pierce, Julie Miller; 3. Market Share, Tim Tetrick,Linda Toscano; 4. Amigo Ranger, Simon Allard, Rene Allard; 5. Archangel, Yannick Gingras, Ron Burke; 6. Modern Family, Dave Palone, Daryl Bier; 7. Sebastian K, Ake Svanstedt, Ake Svanstedt.
Race 9, $300,000 Lynch Memorial – 1. Uffizi Hanover, David Miller, Jimmy Takter; 2. Sayitall BB, Yannick Gingras, Ron Burke; 3. Also Encouraging, Brett Miller, Casie Coleman; 4. Fancy Desire, George Napolitano Jr., Kevin Carr; 5. Southwind Silence, Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke; 6. Cinamony, Corey Callahan, Alex Rice Jr.; 7. Gallie Bythe Beach, John Campbell, Jim Campbell; 8. Weeper, Dave Palone, Kelly O’Donnell; 9. My Lady Day, Tim Tetrick, Joe Holloway.
Race 10, $500,000 Hempt Memorial – 1. Cammikey, Brian Zendt, Bill Zendt; 2. Allstar Partner, Tim Tetrick, John Butenschoen; 3. McWicked, David Miller, Casie Coleman; 4. Sometimes Said, John Campbell, Jim Campbell; 5. At Press Time,Yannick Gingras, Ron Burke; 6. Stevensville, Tim Tetrick, Ray Schnittker; 7. Bushwacker, Ron Pierce, Chris Ryder; 8. All Bets Off, Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke; 9. Limelight Beach, Brian Sears, Brian Brown.
Race 11, $500,000 Franklin Pace – 1. Bettor’s Edge, Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke; 2. Allstar Legend, Scott Zeron, Ron Burke; 3. Foiled Again, Yannick Gingras, Ron Burke; 4. Sweet Lou, Ron Pierce, Ron Burke; 5. Domethatagain, Simon Allard, Rene Allard; 6. Bolt The Duer, Mark MacDonald, Peter Foley; 7. Captive Audience, David Miller, Corey Johnson; 8. Captaintreacherous, Tim Tetrick, Tony Alagna; 9. Sunshine Beach, Brian Sears, Mark Steacy.
Race 12, $500,000 Beal Jr. Memorial – 1. Amped Up Hanover, Matt Kakaley,Ron Burke; 2. Nuncio, John Campbell, Jimmy Takter; 3. Harper Blue Chip, Brian Sears, Mark Steacy; 4. Don Dorado, Tim Tetrick, Robert Baggitt Jr.; 5. Outburst, Andrew McCarthy, Noel Daley; 6. Well Built, Jim Meittinis, Chris Ryder; 7. Datsyuk, Charlie Norris, Charlie Norris; 8. Father Patrick, Yannick Gingras, Jimmy Takter; 9. Sumatra, Brett Miller, Tom Fanning.
by Ken Weingartner, for Harness Racing Communications