Tuesday, October 14, 2014


Ron Burke Keeps Breaking Earnings Records


By Ken Weingartner

With the record for purses in the bank and 11 weeks remaining on the calendar, trainer Ron Burke is now left to contemplate how much his stable can increase its earnings before the end of the year.

Burke, who in 2013 became the first trainer to eclipse $20 million in a season -- finishing the campaign with $22.23 million, moved $9,333 beyond that figure this year thanks to earning $11,750 at Yonkers Raceway on Monday night. His stable broke last year’s mark when pacer Rockstar Temper won the sixth race.

“It’s neat because coming into this year I thought we might not be able to reach that,” Burke said. “Now to reach it this early, you wonder how far you can go. The next mark is 25 (million dollars). There’s not a ton of stakes races left, but there’s enough that if we can put together a run, maybe we could do 25.”

Last year, Burke’s horses won 25 races worth at least $100,000. This season, the “Burke Brigade” has captured 38 races worth at least $100,000. Among those victories were 3-year-old pacer JK Endofanera in the North America Cup, 5-year-old pacer Sweet Lou in the Ben Franklin Pace and William R. Haughton Memorial, 3-year-old pacer Limelight Beach in the Little Brown Jug, and 2-year-old trotter Mission Brief in the Merrie Annabelle.

He also won four New York Sire Stakes championships, plus two sire stakes crowns each in Pennsylvania and Ohio, and one in New Jersey.

“Ohio is probably some of the reason, there’s been a rebirth there and that gave us a chance to race a little bit more, and the Meadowlands was stronger this year, so that probably helps a little bit,” Burke said. “And we have way more stakes horses than we’ve had in the past. We went with a lot more young horses. That’s one area where I thought we were set up better because we had more young horses to start with.

“But it gets to the point where we’re racing against ourselves a lot of times. It’s the law of diminishing returns. Sometimes we have four in a race; we can only win that race once. That’s one thing we’re trying to get away from and spread out to different areas a little more. We want to try to get away from racing so many times against ourselves.”

Burke, who leads the purse standings for trainers by more than $12 million, has won 887 of 4,164 races this year. Last season, Burke started 4,494 horses and won a record 1,090 races.

“That’s another thing, I didn’t think we could ever start 5,000 horses, and we’re going to be close,” Burke said. “That’s incredible when you figure it’s like 13 a day, every day. That means if you start none today, you’ve got to start 26 tomorrow. But that’s just how big it’s gotten.”

Burke, who turns 45 on Thursday, has won a record 5,482 races and $117 million in his career. He took over the Burke Stable from his father, Mickey, on a fulltime basis in 2009 and was named Trainer of the Year in 2011 and 2013 by the U.S. Harness Writers Association. His Burke Racing Stable also was honored, with its partners, as Owner of the Year in 2013.

Written by HRI Publisher of Harness Racing Update

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Friday, September 19, 2014


The Spotlight Belonged to Limelight Beach.


By Ken Weingartner

Limelight Beach entered Thursday’s $647,500 Little Brown Jug for 3-year-old pacers winless in 12 starts this year, but the past meant nothing at the Delaware County Fair. Limelight Beach swept two heats to capture the Jug trophy, winning his elimination in 1:51 and taking the final in 1:50.4.

The victory gave trainer Ron Burke and driver Yannick Gingras their first Jug champion. Limelight Beach won the 69th Little Brown Jug, presented by Fazoli’s, by 1-1/2 lengths over Let’s Drink On It, with Gingras pumping his fist triumphantly at the wire.

"This horse came up huge today," Gingras said. "He went two big, big heats. We kind of got lucky a little bit in the first heat, there was a seam there and I was able to take it, but he came back the second heat and he was scary. He had plenty left."

Limelight Beach drew post No. 1 for the second heat and took advantage of the starting spot, blasting to the front and controlling the action from there. Let’s Drink On It and driver Tyler Smith, who won the Jug’s other first-round elimination, got away second from post two but would get no closer the rest of the way.

Let’s Drink On It ended up second. Somewhere In L A -- who tried to collar Limelight Beach with a first-over move on the backstretch -- finished third and At Press Time was fourth.

"I was looking at the program and there was not a lot of speed," Gingras said. "My horse, people had to respect his speed. Tyler’s horse got out of the gate a little bit better than I thought, but there was no doubt I was happy about it. I kept him moving along; I didn’t want to go too slow. He put in an awesome performance."

Limelight Beach won six of 10 races last year, finishing the season with victories in divisions of the Bluegrass and International Stallion stakes. Most of the colt’s ownership group sold their interests in Limelight Beach to Burke in July, with the Ohio-based Wingfield Brothers stable -- Charles, Robert, Thomas and William -- staying on board.

"We just had too much fun with him last year and we stayed for this race right here," Charles Wingfield said. "It’s just amazing. I can’t believe it."

Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi LLC and M1 Stable also share ownership of Limelight Beach, a son of Somebeachsomewhere out of the mare Benear. He was purchased originally for $25,000 under the name Marblehead Johnson at the 2012 Standardbred Horse Sale.

Burke bought the colt because Limelight Beach was eligible to the Delvin Miller Adios, which is contested at Burke’s home track -- The Meadows. The horse finished fourth in his Adios elimination, failing to advance to the final. Two months later, though, the purchase paid an unexpected dividend.

"(The Adios) didn’t work out, so from there we moved on," Burke said. "This was the Wingfields’ dream and our dream. It was awesome for all of us.

"It was a great day. We’re thrilled.

"I normally do not get over emotional but I am very emotional today. This race is the Jug and we purchased this horse because we knew he was the perfect horse for this track. Also because we knew he would be ready to go being from Brian's (former trainer Brown) barn.

"Again I am emotional because winning a race like this shows how hard all of us, the entire team, work every day to make something special like this happen. I could never do it alone and winning the Jug just hammers that point home and is not just special to me but to our entire team."

Written by John Pricci of Harness Racing Update

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014


Owner Enjoying the Ride with Jugette Starter Lady Shadow


By Ken Weingartner

Although he is still relatively new as an owner, Lindsey Rankin understands how rare it is to find a top racehorse. So he is trying to enjoy the ride with Lady Shadow to the fullest.

Lady Shadow is among 22 horses in Wednesday’s $298,100 Jugette for 3-year-old female pacers at the Delaware County Fair in Ohio. The field was divided into three eliminations, from which the top three in each will advance to the same-day final.

The winner of 10 of 18 career races, Lady Shadow competes in the first elimination. She drew post No. 2 for the son-and-father team of driver Doug McNair and trainer Gregg McNair and is the 5-2 morning line favorite.

Beach Gal, who is coming off a third-place finish in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championship, is the 5-2 favorite in the second elimination. She starts from post four for driver Tim Tetrick and trainer Dave Menary. Gettingreadytoroll, who has won three in a row including the Simcoe Stakes and Miss New Jersey, is the 5-2 choice in the third division. She will start from post two with Yannick Gingras at the lines for trainer Jimmy Takter.

Lady Shadow has earned $426,753 in her career, racing to this point only in Ontario.

“We’ve only been in it for five years, but I think she’s probably our once-in-a-lifetime horse,” said Rankin, a Michigan resident who owns Lady Shadow with his wife, Connie. “So we’re going to try to enjoy it. It would be nice to make the final. We have family and friends coming to see her.

“She’s got a lot of ability. She’s a really nice filly. She’s got a big heart. It’s been a lot of fun.”

Lady Shadow won five of eight races last year, including the Battle of the Belles at Grand River Raceway, and finished second by a neck in the Ontario Sire Stakes championship.

So far this season, Lady Shadow has won five of 10 starts, including the Standardbred Breeders of Ontario Association final and two preliminary divisions of the Ontario Sire Stakes Gold Series. She won her elimination for the Canadian Breeders Championship by more than eight lengths in a career-best 1:49.2 on July 12 at Mohawk, but went off stride at the start of the final on a sloppy track and finished sixth.

But even with the miscue, which left her trailing the early leaders by 27 lengths after the first quarter and 21 lengths at the halfway point, she missed by just 1-3/4 lengths.

“We’re not really sure what happened,” Rankin said. “Doug said she was fumbly gaited and just started to run. Once he set her, she was fine, but he wasn’t real sure what that was all about. She did that once earlier this year too. She’s kind of a hot head sometimes. She’s settled down as the season has gone on, but at the beginning of the year she was a lot to handle.

“She’s got a lot of speed, but sometimes she’s hard to rate. She likes to be put up in the front, in contention, from the get-go.”

Rankin owned horses for three years beginning in 1979, but got out of the sport because of the demands of running a business that supplies graphic design equipment. Five years ago, he asked his then 11-year-old daughter Abby if she wanted to get a horse, and when the young girl’s eyes lit up, he was back in the game.

“Now we’re kind of hooked back into it,” said the now-retired Rankin, who owns six horses.

He bought Lady Shadow for $19,000 at the Forest City Sale in Ontario. The filly is a daughter of 2008 Little Brown Jug winner Shadow Play out of the mare Lady Camella. The dam’s family includes 1962 Little Brown Jug winner Lehigh Hanover as well as famed trotter Peter Volo.

“I liked a lot about her; her conformation,” Rankin said. “She’s always been high strung. We had a lot of issues with her when she was a yearling. She was always trying to do something stupid, but we got through it all.

“We’ve been real happy with her this year. She paces a half-mile track just as well as she does a big track, so we think she deserves a shot.”

Below are the elimination fields for the Jugette in post order with drivers, trainers, and morning line odds.

Elim One: 1. Shell Bell, Kurt Sugg, Kurt Sugg, 12-1; 2. Lady Shadow, Doug McNair, Gregg McNair, 5-2; 3. Color’s A Virgin, Trace Tetrick, Brian Brown, 4-1; 4. Southwind Silence, Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke, 6-1; 5. Ali Blue, Yannick Gingras, Jimmy Takter, 5-1; 6. Beach Body, Ron Pierce, Chris Oakes, 10-1; 7. Also Encouraging, David Miller, Casie Coleman, 7-2.

Elim Two: 1. Uffizi Hanover, David Miller, Jimmy Takter, 4-1; 2. Allstar Rating, Yannick Gingras, Ron Burke, 7-2; 3. Somethinincredible, Ron Pierce, Bob McIntosh, 8-1; 4. Beach Gal, Tim Tetrick, Dave Menary, 5-2; 5. Fits Well, Scott Zeron, Brian Brown, 12-1; 6. Gallie Bythe Beach, John Campbell, Jim Campbell, 10-1; 7. A La Notte Hanover, Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke, 8-1; 8. Sectionline Aqua, Brett Miller, Steve Bauder, 5-1.

Elim Three: 1. Cut A Deal, Jim Pantaleano, Nick Surick, 12-1; 2. Gettingreadytoroll, Yannick Gingras, Jimmy Takter, 5-2; 3. Beautiful Lady, Matt Kakaley, Ron Burke, 5-1; 4. Someislandsomwhere, Ron Pierce, Casie Coleman, 6-1; 5. Candy’s A Virgin, Trace Tetrick, Brian Brown, 4-1; 6. Sandbetweenurtoes, Brett Miller, Larry Remmen, 7-2; 7. Beach Story, David Miller, Kelvin Harrison, 8-1.

Written by John Pricci of Harness Racing Update

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