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By Ken Weingartner, USTA — With a year of seasoning against the sport’s best older male pacers under his belt, Lou’s Pearlman is set to begin his 2023 campaign Saturday (April 8) in the $36,000 Open 2/Open 1 Handicap at The Meadowlands.

The 5-year-old stallion is one of two Ron Burke trainees making his seasonal debut in the race. Seven-year-old stallion Workin Ona Mystery, who like Lou’s Pearlman is a multiple winner on the Grand Circuit in his career, also is ready to go following a year in which he banked $323,182 and pushed his lifetime earnings to more than $1.1 million.

“They probably need a start, but they both trained back very good,” Burke said.

Lou’s Pearlman won four of 19 races last season and earned $117,924. In his final two starts, both in November at The Meadowlands, he won a Preferred Handicap that included last year’s second-richest older pacer, Tattoo Artist, and finished fourth in the TVG Series Open Pace final, where he was only a quarter-length from second. He paced the mile in 1:48 with a :25.2 last quarter.

“It was a little bit tough for him, the transition (from age 3 to 4), but he was really good his last couple starts,” Burke said. “He finally made the move to where he got competitive with that group. The last couple starts gave me hope. I think he will have a good year. I really do. I’m very happy with him.”

Lou’s Pearlman qualified once ahead of Saturday’s start, winning in 1:51.4 with a :25.3 last quarter on March 31 at The Meadowlands. He will start from post seven with driver Yannick Gingras in Saturday’s eight-horse field.

A son of Sweet Lou-Lucy’s Pearl, Lou’s Pearlman has won 17 of 49 career races, including the 2021 Little Brown Jug, and earned $910,737. He is owned by Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi, Elizabeth Novak, and Howard Taylor.

Workin Ona Mystery won four of 21 races last year, with his top triumph coming in the Commodore Barry Invitational at Harrah’s Philadelphia. He finished second to Tattoo Artist in both the Joe Gerrity Jr. Memorial and #SendItIn Invitational, and was third in the Dan Patch Stakes, Hoosier Park Pacing Derby, and Allerage Farms Open Pace.

Eight of his final 10 races last season included 2022 Horse of the Year Bulldog Hanover.

“(Workin Ona Mystery) kind of fell apart a little bit at the end of the year, but I think that was the Bulldog effect,” Burke said. “He had too many miles chasing him and it kind of came back to hurt.

“I think he will come back and have a real good year.”

Workin Ona Mystery and driver Tim Tetrick will start Saturday from post eight. Workin Ona Mystery heads to the race off a third-place finish in the same qualifier as Lou’s Pearlman. Workin Ona Mystery was timed in 1:52.2 with a :25.4 last quarter.

For his career, Workin Ona Mystery has won 18 of 63 starts. The son of Captaintreacherous-Dragon’s Tale is owned by Burke Racing, Milton Leeman, Alan Keith, and Wingfield Brothers.

Burke said neither Lou’s Pearlman nor Workin Ona Mystery changed much physically during the offseason.

“They were good-sized horses, pretty nicely made, to begin with,” he said.

In addition to Saturday’s Open 2/Open 1 Handicap for pacers, The Meadowlands will host a $31,500 Open 1 for trotters.

Racing at the Meadowlands begins at 6:20 p.m. (EDT). Free TrackMaster programs for the Big M can be found here.

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