Thursday, August 07, 2014

Sweet Lou Takes Aim at Dan Patch

By Ken Weingartner

It would be easy for trainer Ron Burke to be confident as he prepares Sweet Lou for Friday’s $250,000 Dan Patch Invitational at Hoosier Park. After all, his 5-year-old pacer brings an eight-race win streak to the event, with an unprecedented stretch of speedy miles to go with it.

But Burke knows Sweet Lou isn’t the only horse streaking into the Dan Patch. Dancin Yankee, the last horse to defeat Sweet Lou, also is among the pacers in the nine-horse field. Dancin Yankee, racing out of the stable of trainer Amber Buter, brings a six-race victory streak to the Dan Patch.

It will be the first meeting between the two horses since Dancin Yankee won the Van Rose Memorial Invitational on May 3 at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. Sweet Lou finished third, but since then has gone undefeated.

“I think Lou is running into another horse that is racing as good as anyone in the country,” Burke said. “I’m actually nervous. I think that horse is super sharp, career sharp, too.

“There are other horses that could win too, but both those horses are on long win streaks. I think that’s going to be a great race.”

Sweet Lou has won eight of 11 races this year and earned $791,500 for owners Burke Racing, Weaver Bruscemi LLC, Larry Karr, and Phil Collura. His wins include the Ben Franklin Pace, William R. Haughton Memorial, U.S. Pacing Championship, and Roll With Joe.

His 1:47 victory in the Ben Franklin is the fastest ever on a five-eighths-mile track, breaking the previous mark of 1:47.2 that was shared by Dancin Yankee and Pet Rock.

Sweet Lou has won each of his last five starts in less than 1:48, which is a record. He has been driven during his win streak by Ron Pierce.

For his career, the son of Yankee Cruiser-Sweet Future has won 30 of 66 races and $2.90 million. He was the 2011 Dan Patch Award winner for best 2-year-old male pacer and earned $1 million at age 3, but picked up only four wins and $348,638 at 4.

“I’m just so happy he’s winning,” Burke said. “It’s enjoyable to watch him race right now. I’ve been such a believer all along and for him to do what we thought he could, nothing feels better.”

Burke, who on Saturday moved past Virgil Morgan Jr. to become the winningest trainer in harness racing history, also sends Bettor’s Edge to the Dan Patch. The 5-year-old gelding has won six of 19 races this season and earned $421,781. He was second to Sweet Lou in the Franklin and Haughton and fourth in the U.S. Pacing Championship.

Dancin Yankee has won 14 of 21 races this year and $315,140 for owners Baron Racing Stable and Rich Lombardo. The 6-year-old son of Yankee Cruiser-Dancewiththebest won the preferred handicap at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs in each of his last three starts.

The remainder of the field is Thinking Out Loud, Night Pro, Carol’s Comet, Heston Blue Chip, State Treasurer and Our Lucky Chip.

“It ended up being a really good field,” Burke said.

Following is the field in post order with drivers, trainers and morning line: 1. Dancin Yankee, Tyler Buter, Amber Buter, 8-1; 2. Thinking Out Loud, John Campbell, Bob McIntosh, 6-1; 3. Night Pro, Peter Wrenn, Dale Decker, 20-1; 4. Carol’s Comet, Aaron Merriman, Ron Potter, 15-1; 5. Sweet Lou, Ron Pierce, Ron Burke, 4-5; 6. Heston Blue Chip, Corey Callahan, Linda Toscano, 15-1; 7. Bettor’s Edge, Ricky Macomber Jr., Ron Burke, 10-1; 8. State Treasurer, Jody Jamieson, Ian Moore, 4-1; 9. Our Lucky Chip, Trace Tetrick, Jason Miller, 30-1.

U.S. Trotting Assn.

Written by John Pricci of Harness Racing Update

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Saturday, August 02, 2014


By Darin Zoccali

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., August 2, 2014--It was a banner Hambletonian Day for Team Takter.

Hall of Fame trainer Jimmy Takter finished 1-2 in the $1 million Hambletonian for 3-year-old trotters as Trixton beat Nuncio by a half length on Saturday at Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment.

Making the victory even sweeter, it was Takter’s first winning Hambletonian drive.

And it didn’t stop there.

Takter also took the companion event for 3-year-old trotting fillies, the $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks with Lifetime Pursuit.

Takter became only the second trainer to win the Hambletonian and the Oaks in one year, joining Jan Johnson who sweep both in 1988.

In both instances, Takter won with his “other” horse. Father Patrick, the 2-5 favorite, had won 15 straight for Takter, and looked like a lock heading into the Hambletonian.

That blew up early when Father Patrick a break. Fortunately for Takter, he still had two solid chances.

Nuncio and Hall of Famer John Campbell set a pressured pace. Takter meanwhile worked out a perfect second over trip before tipping three wide turning for home.

It was all Takter in the lane, as his two colts pulled well clear of the pack. The only drama was which one would prevail.

It was Trixton, winning for seventh time in nine starts this season.

“It’s been a great day,” Takter said. “I just won the Oaks. It’s hard to absorb so much good. God gave it to me. I’m so happy.”

To win the Hambletonian as a driver only added to the experience.

“When I have a possible contender, I put the best possible driver up,” Takter said. “This was my shot. If was going to do it, I had to do it today.”

Trixton earned $503,062.50 for owners Brixton Medical A B and Christina Takter.

Trixton trotted the mile in 1:50 3/5, paying $10.60 to win.

The attendance was 20,764 for the first Hambletonian raced before the new, streamlined grandstand on an overcast afternoon following a rainy morning.

They were treated to an extraordinary afternoon of racing that saw the meet leaders enjoy huge days. Yannick Gingras drove five winners, including four major stakes.

Ron Burke sent out four winners, including three top stakes winners.


That Takter won the Hambletonian Oaks did not come as a surprise as he sent out Del Miller Memorial winner Shake It Cerry.

Yes, Takter did get the victory, but it was other 3-year-old trotting filly, Lifetime Pursuit that delivered a 10-1 upset.

And she did it in style, beating Designed To Be by 2 1-2 lengths in a world record 1:50 4/5 performance.

She had a little help from a friend.

Shake It Cerry, starting in the second tier, worked her way to front to give Lifetime Pursuit an ideal pocket trip.

Gingras had a ton of filly tugging at the lines when he turned Lifetime Pursuit loose.

“It definitely was a perfect trip,” Gingras said. “She probably needed that to win but she was awesome today. Jimmy pulled her shoes and that was the difference right there. She has always been good gaited but she definitely had more speed in her today.”

Lifetime Pursuit is owned by Brittany Farms.

Written by John Pricci of Harness Racing Update

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Friday, August 01, 2014

Johansson v Takter v All in Hambleltonian

Story by Rich Fisher

The fact that trainer Nancy Johansson will make her Hambletonian debut against her dad, Hall of Fame trainer Jimmy Takter, is one of the big storylines entering Saturday’s race.

And while Johansson understands and appreciates the interest, it’s not something that’s really on her mind. Especially since, hey, there will be other trainers there too!

“It’s no different to race against him than anybody else,” said Johansson, who trains Hambletonian starter Resolve, adding with a laugh. “It’s a horserace, there has to be other horses in there. He’s one of the top trainers with one of the biggest barns, so I expect him to be there.”

The two have teamed up for previous Hambletonian success, as Nancy was the caretaker for Takter’s 2010 winner, Muscle Massive. She grew up learning the trade under Jimmy, who also won the 1997 Hambletonian with Malabar Man, having said in the past “I tell people that from going to my dad’s ‘school’ I got a PhD in training.”

But neither wants to mix business with pleasure, especially when it comes to head-to-head competition.

“We don’t talk about it,” Nancy said. “When we have family time, we talk about grandkids or other stuff.

“But we’re both very competitive. I think deep down inside, if somebody beats him he would want it to be me. But it’s really deep down because he really wants to win first himself.”

And Takter has a good chance this year with favorite Father Patrick, along with two other highly regarded horses in the race – Trixton and Nuncio.

This won’t be the first time father and daughter pitted their Hambletonian horses against each other. On July 19, Resolve finished second to Nuncio in the Reynolds Stakes.

Resolve has won two of seven races this year and hit the board six times. He has four wins in 19 career starts, earning $45,950.

The horse is owned by Hans Enggren, who won the 1985 Hambletonian with Prakas. Enggren is looking for another shot at Hambletonian glory, which is why he bought Resolve just a few weeks ago.

“He was pretty much purchased with the idea he was going to race in the Hambletonian,” Johansson said. “Hans is getting up in age and he wants another go at the Hambletonian. He had seen the horse last year and liked him.”

Enggren saw him again early in the spring and liked him just as much, if not more, but Resolve was not for sale. When he was put on the market, Hans made his move.

“We knew that if he raced good in the Reynolds he was going to the Hambletonian,” Johansson said. “I didn’t really expect him to race that good, so that was a good surprise. He’s been solid all year.

“He’s a nice horse. I think he’s going to mature into a nice older horse. He’s not staked to a lot this year, so he’s going to have a kind of low-key 3-year-old season.”

Winning the Hambletonian would certainly turn the key up a notch, and Johansson is happy with drawing the No. 1 post. But she was unhappy to see her dad’s top horse get stuck in the difficult 10 hole.

“The draw helped us, but I didn’t like to see Father Patrick draw bad,” Johansson said. “He deserves to win the Hambletonian because he’s just such an extremely fine animal. With post 10, anything can happen.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if things shake out differently than expected, too.”

One of Takter’s trademarks is trying new things with a horse entering a final. Nancy is unsure if that will be necessary with Resolve.

“I don’t know yet. We’ll see,” she said. “We changed a lot on the horse already. I think you have to be careful how much you change in a short amount of time.

“I feel pretty confident we have him the way we want him. He trained absolutely fantastic (Wednesday) morning. I couldn’t ask for a better training session than he had (that) morning. I don’t really feel like there is anything we need to take care of. Everything feels very even keel right now. It’s a good situatioAnd, as far as Johansson is concerned, a situation like any other when it comes to the trainers she will be facing in this race.

Harness Racing Communications, USTA

Written by John Pricci of Harness Racing Update

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