When harness racing super trainer Ron Burke declared his goal was to break his own staggering records again in 2013, very few could doubt him.
In 2014, the 44-year-old from Pennsylvania, based in Cannonsburg, cruised to his third straight training title at the Meadowlands, and the massive Burke operation flew past the 5,000-wins mark and $100 million.
Some call him the Todd Pletcher of harness racing.
Burke is the leading trainer in the sport for the fifth straight year.
Last year, Burke amassed 1,090 wins from 4,494 starts and $22,228,815, all records.
Just past the midway point of 2014, Burke was overseeing approximately 250 horses at six different venues in four states, and as of August 6 his stable had more than 600 wins and $13 million.
In addition to the Meadowlands, in 2013, Burke was also the leading money winner at all three tracks in his home state, The Meadows, Pocono Downs and Harrah’s Philadelphia, as well as Hoosier Park in Indiana and Yonkers Raceway in New York.
Burke learned the business from his father Mickey Burke, who originally had car dealerships and owned horses with other trainers at The Meadows, Dick, Doug and Dane Snyder. Mickey would often help out, learned the ropes and drove in his first race in the mid fifties.
Now in his late seventies, Mickey is still very much involved in training the stable’s youngsters.
As Ron began helping his dad develop his stable in the early eighties, he not only overcame his initial fear of horses, he discovered he had a special rapport with them, particularly the bad actors.
Ron the horse whisperer learned to love horses, grew to love racing, and his work would soon speak loud and clear at the sport’s major racetracks.
The younger Burke also has a knack for absorbing detail and recall, and keeps track of everything utilizing today’s technology.
Every year has been better than the year before, and for the Burkes racing has been a family affair ever since they emerged and thrived with the advent of racinos.
In 2014, triple millionaire Sweet Lou has become the season’s hottest free for all pacer, dominating the TVG FFA Series and romping in major events like the Roll With Joe at Tioga Downs in 1:48.3, the Ben Franklin at Pocono Downs in a world record of 1:47, the William Haughton Memorial in a world record of 1:47.1, and he made it eight in a row in the US Pacing Championship in 1:47.2.
Sweet Lou is the first horse in history to win under 1:48 five times, all in succession.
Among Ron Burke’s record 15 Breeders Crown finalists last Fall, Foiled Again, the sport’s first $6 million pacer, became the richest North America-based harness horse in history and oldest to win a Crown event at age nine in 2013.
The ultimate warhorse capped last season with a dramatic tally in the TVG FFA Pace Final and is still going strong in 2014.
Burke calls him the most consistent and hardest trying horse he’s ever trained.
Clear Vision, Bettor’s Edge, Allstar Legend, Ultimate Beachboy and Arachache Hanover are also among his dominant Open class battallion.
This season, Burke has campaigned two of the hottest three-year-old pacers around in Art Rooney winner All Bets Off and JK Endofanera, who gave Burke his first $1 million win with a 12-1 upset in the North America Cup.
Allstar Rating, Southwind Silence, At Press Time and Somestarsomewhere are also in his “glamor boy” three-year-old pacing colt division contingent.
On Meadowlands Pace Night 2014, the double millionaire Rocklamation rallied to a 12-1 upset from post nine in the Golden Girls with the mile of her life, 1:48.3, despite a month off. The consistent five-year-old by Rocknroll Hanover came right back to win the Lady Liberty in 1:49.3.
Add in a strong contingent of young stars like Merrie Annabelle winner Mission Brief, who equaled a world record of 1:52.2, and the Burke Barn formula for unprecedented success is a slam-dunk to continue well into the future.
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