Ron Burke believes it’s the most horses his massive stable has entered on one card at the Meadowlands Racetrack.
On Saturday night, the Dan Patch Award-winning 2011 Trainer of the Year has a total of 16 pacers spread out over 11 of the 13 races, including a four-ply entry in the $74,000 Complex Final. “With 16 in there on Saturday that has to be the most I’ve raced there in one day,” noted Burke.
After another banner season in 2011, in which he won 797 races and $18.5 million (his second straight $18 million campaign), the 41 year old from Washington, PA continues to dominate the sport.
Itrustyou heads the Burke contingent in the Complex Final, carded as race three. The four-year-old gelding by Third Straight starts from post three and wears head number 1A with Yannick Gingras in the bike. Itrustyou goes for the series sweep and his tenth straight win.
“We had talked about buying the horse last year because he had some talent,” said Burke. “Finally, Dean Collins (his breeder and former trainer/co-owner) realized the horse would probably be better on a bigger track. We bought him and he’s by far exceeded our expectations.”
While going two-for-two at the Big M, Itrustyou has put forth some game efforts, yet hasn’t appeared to be entirely smooth gaited and wears a full head screen.
“He sees ghosts,” said Burke. “That’s what we call it. He picks up stuff. It’s really not a malfunction of gait. He has no marks anywhere and he’s actually pretty smoothly gaited. He sees everything and actually steps around them. You don’t worry about it and just drive on. I think the big track helps him because he doesn’t have blast-out speed. You can just kind of keep him rolling along, put him on the front and let him do his work. He seems to try very hard and breathes very well.”
Burke is confident in the rest of his Complex entry.
“Risk Management (post seven, program number 1B) was super in the first leg when he was second to Itrustyou. Then, I didn’t like his effort fading to fifth last week. Intrigued Royally (post two, program number one) keeps improving. Major Belle (post 10, program number 1C) was awesome in his first start off the bench.
“I’m worried about Keep Going (post one, program number two) with Brian Sears,” Burke said of the Complex competition. “I think he had room to take a shot at Itrustyou. Another helping of Brian and he might break through. He’s my biggest fear.”
In the $73,000 Clyde Hirt Stake Final, race six, Burke has drawn post seven (program number six) with second leg winner Thebestofjoel. Again, Yannick Gingras gets the call. Burke won the 2011 Clyde Hirt Stake Final with Meirs Hanover, who equaled the stakes record of 1:50.3.
“Last week, he got used hard leaving and he’s raced way better than I thought he would. We thought the bigger tracks would help him tremendously. That’s going to be a great race because you’ve got horses outside of us that are going to try to be in it, and I’m sure everybody from the inside is going to protect their position. Sonic Dancer looked like he wasn’t totally rigged. Give Kevin McDermott another week to get him to steer better and look out.
In the $110,500 Presidential Final (race 10), Burke has a trio of starters: Fred And Ginger (post five), Annieswesterncard (post 8) and Rockin The House (post 10).
“Annieswesterncard (driven by Yannick Gingras) is for sure my best in there, yet drawing post eight will work against him. Several of the good ones drew inside like Golden Receiver. It will be interesting to see what they do with us. I’m not sitting eighth, ninth and tenth, so they’ll either have to park me or put me in. You’ve got to blast out and I’ll take my shots. I don’t care how good Golden Receiver is right now. He’s going to go a half in :53 with us right at him, and we’ll see if he can hold up.
“I thought the horse that could upset is Vintage Master, but he drew post nine. I don’t know if he has enough tactical speed to get himself forwardly placed. Golden Receiver made a believer out of me. He has been a little bit below this level in the past, but lately he’s been just vicious.”
Burke’s other top 4-year-old players include Westwardho Hanover, Hugadragon, Foxy Lady, Myluvmylife and Rocklamation.
“I was just telling one of my owners, Howard Taylor, that this is the best group of four-year-olds I’ve ever had. I shouldn’t have to go out and buy any this year. I’m all for more four-year-old races and even more for aged horses. That will keep people racing them.
“People have to start looking at the fact that the breeding game isn’t as strong now. Stud fees have been discounted. Honestly, I’m looking at every decision I make with [2011 freshman champion] Sweet Lou with the plan of racing him at four and five. Our group loves to race, so there won’t be a lot of pressure to send him to stud no matter what he does. It’s also a lot easier to do what’s best for the horse when you have three more years to race him, and we’re going to trying to buy another one to race with him this year.”
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