Its Academic, Venerate To Yonkers International Trot

Its Academic winning at The Meadowlands
Published: August 30, 2023 11:30 am EDT

The $1 million MGM Yonkers International Trot is fast approaching and today (Wednesday, Aug. 30) the field swelled to nine as two United States representatives are added to the mix. Its Academic and Venerate were invited to the Sept. 9 worldwide event and their connections have accepted the invitations from Racing Secretary Joe Frasure.

Its Academic is arguably the best older trotter in North America right now. His stakes résumé in 2023 includes victories in the Cashman Memorial, Spirit of Massachusetts and Crawford Farms Trot as he rides a five-race winning streak into Saturday’s (Sept. 2) Maple Leaf Trot at Woodbine Mohawk Park. Currently, Its Academic leads his division with $466,784 in earnings for Canadian owner Brad Grant of Milton, Ont. Trained by Ron Burke, the six-year-old son of Uncle Peter owns a 10-7-1-2 record in 2023.

Its Academic will be making his second start in the MGM Yonkers International Trot. He finished third in 2022 at 31-1 while closing from last in the second part of the 1-1/4 mile race. One year later, Burke is much more confident in his win chances.

“Last year, everything went wrong. He’s a different horse now. He was just becoming ‘Its Academic’ last year. Now he’s tough. He just doesn’t want to lose,” said Burke, who had nothing but wonderful things to say about the entire event.

“Last year, I did all the things that go along with the race and I hope I get the chance to do it again this year,” continued the trainer. “It is an unbelievable experience... Thursday night at the restaurant; Friday cruising to the Statue of Liberty. It really is incredible and you appreciate how excited the people from other countries are to be here. They are way better winners and so much more fun to watch when they win than we are.”

Venerate, owned by international interests (Courant, Holly Lane Stud East, Kemppi Stables & Venerate Partners) and trained by Swedish import Marcus Melander, also joins the field for the MGM Yonkers International Trot as a U.S. entrant. The five-year-old has only been to the track three times in 2023 but has a stakes win in the Cutler and a pair of runner-up finishes behind Its Academic. 

“He started in the Cutler in May and there were no stakes for him in June," said Melander. "We entered him in a couple of overnights at The Meadowlands but they didn’t fill so we qualified him. Then he had the Crawford but we didn’t stake him to the race at Plainridge, and again, the overnight didn’t fill at The Meadowlands. He raced in the Cashman but the Maple Leaf Trot didn’t require eliminations so he had to qualify again. It has been a little strange setup, but there aren’t too many stakes for the older trotters at the beginning of the season."

While his U.S. counterpart has an extensive history of success on half-mile tracks, Venerate will make his debut on a smaller track, something Melander wasn’t concerned about ahead of the big dance.

“I have a feeling he’ll go around it or I wouldn’t have accepted the invitation,” said Melander, who mentioned the Charlie Hill at Scioto Downs on the same date as the other possibility if they were concerned about the smaller track. “We have a half-mile track at home that he trains on. I don’t see any problems going around Yonkers at this point. He’s stayed flat in all his races so far and he’s looked good.

“When he was three, he had some breaking issues, but he’s stronger now at five and more mature maybe.”  

Like Its Academic, Venerate will start in Saturday’s Maple Leaf Trot prior to heading to Yonkers for the co-richest trotting race of the year. 

The grouping for the MGM Yonkers International Trot now sits at nine, with a Canadian invitee expected to round out the field prior to the draw on Sept. 5. Current invitees and their represented nations include:

  • Get A Wish – Denmark
  • Etonnant – France
  • Vivid Wise As – Italy
  • Aldebaran Zeus A – Australia
  • Jiggy Jog S – Sweden
  • Hierro Boko – Finland
  • Bengurion Jet – Italy
  • Its Academic – United States
  • Venerate – United States

In other MGM Yonkers International Trot news, Aldebaran Zeus A qualified at Harrah’s Philadelphia on Aug. 29, finishing second in a credible 1:53.4 with a final quarter of :27.4. Bradley Chisholm was in the bike for “Nifty” Norman, who has taken over training duties while the six-year-old son of Muscle Hill is in the U.S. 

Get A Wish won at Charlottenlund in Copenhagen in 1:52.4 on Aug. 27.

All European horses for the race are expected to arrive at JFK Airport in New York on Sept. 3.

The $1 million MGM Yonkers International Trot is part of a blockbuster card that includes a pair of $250,000 invitational races for older horses (Robert Miecuna Trot and Aria Pace) and the $1.8 million New York Sire Stakes finals. Post time is 12:15 PM (EDT) on Sept. 9.

The entire week leading up to the MGM Yonkers International Trot will have added intrigue with the normal $10,000 guaranteed Pick 5 on Monday and a special “Lucky 5” option replacing the normal Pick 5 the remainder of the racing week (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday).

(With files from Yonkers Raceway)



I fully expect to see a new track record and maybe possibly two. I expect the Maple Leaf Trot to go in under 1:50 and the Canadian Pacing Derby in under 1:46:3.

With so many Down Under horses racing in North America, can someone please explain to me why there's a $1 million International Trot but no complementary $1 million International PACE???

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