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Big Weekend For Burke Barn

Published: May 24, 2010 8:37 pm ET

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Won The West won last season’s Dan Patch Award as harness racing’s best older male pacer, taking a close decision over Shark Gesture, 77-59, in voting by the U.S. Harness Writers Association.

Still, it seemed Won The West entered 2010 somewhat under the radar, perhaps because Shark Gesture was the division’s leading money-winner a year ago. That might all change this year.

Coming into this season, Won The West won 26 of 70 races and earned $2.1 million. He has banked at least $650,000 each of the past three years (he was unraced as a two-year-old) and his career victories include the 2009 Breeders Crown (in stakes-record time), the 2009 Bobby Quillen Memorial, and three consecutive American-National stakes.

This season, Won The West has won two of four races, including his May 21 elimination for Friday’s $310,000 Molson Pace at Western Fair Raceway. Won The West was coming off a second-place finish to Shark Gesture in the $200,000 Graduate at the Meadowlands on May 15.

“This is probably his year,” trainer Ron Burke said. “He’s got to learn to conquer Shark Gesture and the big track and continue to do well on the small tracks. I think he’ll get the recognition. Plus, if he gets up over $3 million – once you hit that $3 million, there are not too many horses up there. He’ll get his due then.”

While it is difficult for any of the older horses to dominate the competition, Won The West has been a steady moneymaker. Last season, he hit the board in 10 of his final 13 starts, winning five.

“He’s a great horse, but you have to be an all-time great to win all the aged stakes,” Burke said. “It would take a very special horse to dominate like that.

From June or July of last year, if you throw out the Canadian Pacing Derby where he got parked in the final, he was pretty much 1-2 in every race.

“The best thing about him is the pure talent and his soundness. He can go every week and he can go on any size track. There’s really not too big of a hole in him anywhere.”

Won The West won his Molson elim over Lucky Man in 1:51.3. David Miller was in the sulky. Won The West will start from post one in the final.

Also advancing from the Burke Stable was Foiled Again, who was second to Hypnotic Blue Chip (winner in 1:52.2) in his elim. Foiled Again has won four of seven races, with three second-place finishes, and earned $335,000 this year. He was coming off a win in the $460,000 George Morton Levy Pacing Series at Yonkers on May 1.

“Every horse that won an elimination had raced the week before,” Burke said. “I think you’ll see it a little bit different in the final, especially Foiled. He doesn’t mind one week off, but two weeks off and he’ll get a little soft. But anytime they’re not in stakes races, they pretty much have to get weeks off because they’re in almost every (stakes) race.”

Burke’s weekend was successful beyond the Molson elims. His three-year-old pacer Fred And Ginger won the $300,000 Max C. Hempt Memorial at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs in a stakes-record 1:49.4 on May 22. One More Laugh, who like Fred And Ginger won his Hempt elim the previous week, went off stride twice and finished eighth in the nine-horse field.

“When One More Laugh (went off stride) it made it a different race,” Burke said. “I’d have liked to try to beat the other colt straight up, but we’ll take it the way we got it. We’re not that big on ego, we’re more on money.”

Stonebridge Terror won the other Molson elim, besting Legal Litigator by a head in 1:52.1.


This story courtesy of Harness Racing Communications, a division of the U.S.
Trotting Association. For more information, visit www.ustrotting.com.


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