Day At The Track

Burke, Miller ready for Breeders Crown

07:44 AM 22 Oct 2020 NZDT
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Ron Burke, Harness racing Julie Miller, harness racing
Ron Burke
HRNZ Photo
Julie Miller

Harness racing trainers Ron Burke and Julie Miller have three of the four richest 2-year-olds in Friday's Breeders Crown eliminations at Harrah's Hoosier Park - Venerate, Southwind Gendry, and Blue Diamond Eyes - and both trainers feel good about their entries overall as they prepare for the night.

Hoosier hosts $25,000 eliminations for 2-year-olds and 3-year-old fillies Friday. The 3-year-old fillies include returning Breeders Crown champions Ramona Hill and Reflect With Me.

The top-five finishers from each elimination advance to next week's finals. Elimination winners will draw for posts one through five for the finals.

Eliminations for 3-year-old male pacers, 3-year-old male trotters, and older female pacers will be held Saturday at Hoosier. Eliminations were unnecessary for the Open Pace, Open Trot, and Mare Trot.

Burke, who ranks No. 2 among all trainers in Breeders Crown history with 17 trophies, will send out 12 horses in Friday's elims, including male pacer Southwind Gendry and female pacer Blue Diamond Eyes.

"I think they're all going to be competitive," Burke said. "I'm happy with where most of them drew. We're just going to try to get as many in (to the finals) as we can and then get ready for next week."

Southwind Gendry has won eight of 10 races this year and earned $409,269, tops among 2-year-old male pacers. He brings a six-race win streak to his elimination. His triumphs include the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes final and three Grand Circuit stakes (Elevation and divisions of the Bluegrass and International Stallion).

The gelding competes in the first of two Breeders Crown eliminations for 2-year-old male pacers and will start from post two with driver Yannick Gingras.

"He's super sharp and drew a good spot," Burke said. "I can't be happier. He has a real good attitude about winning. That's what most impresses me. He seems to want to win."

The first elimination also includes Metro Pace winner Exploit and Indiana Sire Stakes champion JK Going West. The second elimination features undefeated Perfect Sting (8-for-8) as well as Metro runner-up Bayfield Beach and the season's fastest male pacer, Lou's Pearlman, who won a division of the Bluegrass in 1:49.1.

Burke also trains Lou's Pearlman, the winner of five of 10 starts this year.

"He started out great, then hit a little dry patch, but his last couple have been excellent," Burke said. "He's another one that's really coming in sharp and ready to go."

Blue Diamond Eyes races in the second of two eliminations for 2-year-old filly pacers. She has won four of nine starts, finished second three times, and earned $383,417. Her victories include sire stakes championships in Pennsylvania and Kentucky.

Her foes in the elimination include stablemate Scarlett Hanover, the Ontario Sire Stakes champion who finished first in the She's A Great Lady Stakes but was disqualified for causing interference in the stretch.

"I can't be happier with (Blue Diamond Eyes); she's become one of the better fillies of the class," Burke said. "I'm thrilled with her. We thought she was our best filly and then she went the wrong way for a little bit. When she went to Lexington (for the recent Grand Circuit meet) she turned everything around. It all came together.

"Whatever was wrong, she fixed it on her own, basically. Since then, she's been very good."

The first elimination for 2-year-old filly pacers includes She's A Great Lady winner Caviart Audrey, Indiana Sire Stakes champion Somethingbeautiful, and Fire Start Hanover, who is on a five-race win streak.

Miller-trained Venerate leads all 2-year-olds in purses with $690,614. The trotting colt won the Mohawk Million and Kentucky Sire Stakes final in September. He went off stride in his most recent start, a division of the International Stallion at Lexington's Red Mile. He is in the second of two eliminations for 2-year-old male trotters.

"He can be his own worst enemy," Miller said. "He has to mind his manners, that's his biggest thing. He's kind of immature mentally and is still trying to figure out what we're asking of him. He wants to do the right thing, he's trying to figure it out. But he trained very well and I think he's on his game right now. I think he's peaking."

Venerate's rivals in his elimination include undefeated Pennsylvania Sire Stakes champion Captain Corey (5-for-5) and Peter Haughton Memorial winner Zenith Stride. The first elim includes William Wellwood Memorial winner On A Streak and Grand Circuit stakes winner Cuatro De Julio, whose 1:51.3 mile in a division of the International Stallion makes him the fastest of the Breeders Crown hopefuls.

In the Breeders Crown for 2-year-old female trotters, Peaceful Way winner Donna Soprano headlines a group of eight in the first elimination. The Luc Blais-trained filly has won five of six starts, including a division of the Champlain Stakes, and finished second to colt Venerate in the Mohawk Million. She leads 2-year-old filly trotters in purses with $433,570.

The first elimination also includes New York Sire Stakes and Kentuckiana Stallion Management Stakes winner Iteration as well as recent Grand Circuit stakes winner Beautiful Game. In the second elimination, Pennsylvania Sire Stakes champion Flawless Country, Kentucky Sire Stakes champion Lady Chaos, and Indiana Sire Stakes champion Swift Swanda are among the hopefuls in a field of nine.

Among the 3-year-old fillies, Tony Alagna's Hambletonian winner Ramona Hill competes in the second of two eliminations for 3-year-old female trotters. The most recent Breeders Crown-winning 2-year-old filly trotter to repeat at age 3 was Ariana G in 2016 and 2017.

Her foes in her elimination include Love A Good Story, who earlier this month won the Kentucky Filly Futurity for trainer Miller.

"We just tried to nurse her this summer in the New York (Sire Stakes) program and then target the Futurity and Breeders Crown," Miller said. "She's an easy keeper and loves her job and is full of energy. She's been a consistent, honest filly for us."

Burke sends out Pennsylvania Sire Stakes and Moni Maker Stakes winner Crucial in the second elimination and Sister Sledge, last year's Breeders Crown runner-up, in the first. Neither hit the board in their two most recent starts, but Burke said they were suffering from stomach issues.

"We worked on them and they look better, and they trained great," Burke said. "I'm hoping we're going to turn them back around."

The first elimination for 3-year-old filly trotters also includes New York and Kentucky sire stakes champ Hypnotic AM and Indiana Sire Stakes champ May Baby.

Reflect With Me, another Alagna trainee, is in the first of two eliminations for 3-year-old filly pacers. The most recent Breeders Crown-winning 2-year-old filly pacer to repeat at age 3 was Warrawee Ubeaut, just last year.

Her elimination includes undefeated (13-for-13) Party Girl Hill, who beat male rivals in her most recent start in the Tattersalls Pace. Her wins also include the Jugette and Pennsylvania Sire Stakes final.

The second elimination includes last year's Dan Patch Award winner, Lyons Sentinel, along with New York Sire Stakes champion Hen Party and Indiana Sire Stakes champion Priceless.

Priceless is a newer addition to Miller's stable. She will be making her third start for Miller in the Breeders Crown elim.

"We kind of did a test run the first time with her so we could figure out how we wanted her to be and she really raced well," Miller said. "She really likes that Hoosier track. There are a lot of nice horses in there, but she deserves it and it's her home turf. Hopefully, she'll have a little advantage there.

"Things seems to be going our way right now," she added. "We're very thankful and fortunate. I hope it continues."

Racing begins at 6:30 p.m. (EDT) Friday at Hoosier Park. For complete entries, click here.

by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA

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