Day At The Track

Burke reaches goals, eyes more in stakes

02:09 PM 26 Nov 2013 NZDT
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Ron Burke, harness racing
Ron Burke training
Photo by Ken Weingartner

Ron Burke, who is preparing a number of horses for Saturday's stakes-filled card at Meadowlands Racetrack, wanted his stable to win 1,000 races and $20 million this year. On Nov. 22, Burke got victory No. 1,000, which came nine days after his barn surpassed $20 million.

No trainer in history ever reached 1,000 wins or $20 million in a single season.

"Of all the things we've accomplished, I think the 1,000 wins are the most gratifying and impressive," said Burke, who entered Monday with 1,013 victories. "You have to win pretty much three races a day to reach 1,000, so that shows a level of consistency throughout the full year.

"Even with the number of horses we race, I didn't know if it was a possibility to even do it."

Since taking the lead role in the stable from his father Mickey in 2009, Burke has led all harness racing trainers in wins and purses for five consecutive years. He was Trainer of the Year in 2011.

Burke's stable has won 23.9 percent of its 4,237 starts this year. His win total broke his own record of 906 triumphs, which he set last year, and his earnings topped his record of $19.69 million, also set in 2012.

"I set goals every year and 1,000 wins and $20 million were the goals this year," Burke said. "I like to set them high and give us something to work toward. But I don't know where I'm going to set them next year. I want the goals to be realistic, and I don't know if we can have any better year than this one."

Burke could add substantially to his wins and money with a strong Saturday night at the Meadowlands. He sends three horses into the $534,500 Governor's Cup for 2-year-old male pacers - Carracci Hanover, JK Endofanera and Somestarsomewhere - plus JK Molly to the $394,950 Three Diamonds for 2-year-old filly pacers and Southwind Spirit to the $494,750 Valley Victory for 2-year-old male trotters.

In addition, Foiled Again won the last preliminary leg of the TVG Free For All Championship Series for pacers on Nov. 23 at the Meadowlands and Wishing Stone won the last preliminary leg of the TVG Free For All Championship Series for trotters. Both horses head to their respective $500,000 finals Saturday at the Big M.

Somestarsomewhere enters the Governor's Cup with four wins in his last six races. His victories include a division of the International Stallion Stakes at Lexington's Red Mile and his elimination for the Breeders Crown. He was third in the Breeders Crown final over a sloppy track at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs.

He prepped for the Governor's Cup with two qualifiers at the Meadowlands, winning the second by a nose over JK Endofanera in 1:51.4.

"Coming into the year, we thought he was our best 2-year-old, but he didn't get off to a great start and we were beginning to wonder whether we guessed wrong on him," Burke said about Somestarsomewhere, who was winless in his first four races.

"He got a little sick, but I think really he just needed to mature and get on the big tracks. He's a big horse and I think he just needed to stretch out a bit. We knew the mud was going to get to him at the Breeders Crown, but otherwise since Lexington (in early October) he's been as good as any horse out there. He's just been super. He's my best shot for next year to be a top colt."

JK Endofanera won the $157,100 Elevation Stakes in a track-record 1:51.4 on Nov. 1 at Hoosier Park, giving him three wins in six starts this season. He also had three second-place finishes.

"He's a pretty big horse and more or less has been pointed for this race," Burke said. "He's just a good horse. He's big and strong and there's no end to him."

Carracci Hanover has won one of 12 starts this year and is coming into the Governor's Cup off a third-place finish in the Matron Stakes on Nov. 17 at Dover Downs.

"I think all three of mine should be extremely competitive," Burke said. "They're all good horses."

In the Three Diamonds, JK Molly faces a field that includes stakes winners Act Now, Ali Blue, Instant Respect, My Lady Day and Somethinincredible. JK Molly has won five of 10 races, including divisions of the Tompkins-Geers and Simpson stakes.

Southwind Spirit heads to the Valley Victory off a 1:55 win in the $217,500 Kindergarten Classic final at Vernon Downs. He has won six of 12 races and $310,925 this season. The Valley Victory field includes Matron Stakes champion Nuncio.

The draws for the Governor's Cup, Three Diamonds, Valley Victory and $456,150 Goldsmith Maid for 2-year-old filly trotters will be Tuesday.

by Ken Weingartner for Harness Racing Communications

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