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Star Sophomore Showdown Saturday

Published: April 30, 2021 9:20 am ET

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The 2021 stakes season at The Meadows kicks off with a bang Saturday (May 1), when the track hosts a $153,856 Pennsylvania Sire Stakes for sophomore pacing colts and geldings — featuring Southwind Gendry and Summa Cum Laude, a pair of the glamour division’s prospective superstars — as well as day-long activities to help fans celebrate the simulcast of the Kentucky Derby following the live card.

In addition to the sire stakes, the card offers a $100,000 Pennsylvania Stallion Series event for three-year-old male pacers. The 13-race live program and the Derby Day festivities begin at the special post time of 11:25 a.m.

The PASS will see a pair of last year’s top freshmen, both from the Ron Burke stable, kick off their sophomore campaigns in the same division, which goes as race six. Southwind Gendry not only won the PASS championship, but he also scored in such other prestigious events as the Matron Stakes and splits of the Bluegrass and the International Stallion Series. The Always B Miki-Gamblers Passion gelding, a $30,000 yearling purchase, banked $583,069 for owners Burke Racing Stable, Phillip Collura, Knox Services and J&T Silva-Purnel&Libby.

Despite those accomplishments — and his flashy mark of 1:50(f) — perhaps his most impressive strength is his ability to get the job done on any size track, with any trip.

“He just wants to win. That’s innate to him and it’s probably his biggest advantage,” Burke says. “He’s come back perfect, just as good as he was at the end of last year.”

Southwind Gendry leaves from post 5 with Yannick Gingras aboard. He’ll have to be sharp to outperform his stablemate, Summa Cum Laude, who was nearly as distinguished last year but, Burke says, puzzling at times. The son of Somebeachsomewhere and Western Graduate pulled off one of the shockers of 2020, dead heating with Perfect Sting — at nearly 22-1 — to share the Breeders Crown championship. Perfect Sting finished the season unbeaten and waltzed off with the division’s Dan Patch Award.

“We (Burke Racing, Collura, Weaver Bruscemi and the Silva-Purnel group) gave a lot for him ($260,000), and he looked like a million dollars,” Burke says. “But he wasn’t as good on a five-eighths-mile track as he was on a mile track. Horses that normally couldn’t touch him on a mile track would beat him on the smaller track. He’s a little better gaited this year, but with him, we’ll be shooting for the big races at the big tracks because that’s where he excels.”

Summa Cum Laude has drawn post 3 with Dexter Dunn in the sulky.

Burke will send three more forward in the other PASS split (race 4), which shows the depth of his stable in this division: Lous Pearlman (post 1, Gingras), Lunar (post 5, Ronnie Wrenn Jr.), Literl Lad Hanover (post 7, David Miller). Of the trio, Lunar probably is the most intriguing. He missed his entire freshman campaign with an injury but now has won all five career starts against admittedly softer competition. Can the Sweet Lou-Crescent City gelding step up?

“Last year,” Burke says, “we thought he was right there with my top horses. Something flew up on the track and hit him, causing a stress fracture in a back leg. All we needed to do to treat it was give him time off. We’re excited to see if he can go with my top three. If he can go with them, he can go with any of them.”

The Meadows and the Meadows Standardbred Owners Association (MSOA) have planned virtually nonstop Derby Day fan activities, including:

• Giveaways and prizes for fans rocking Derby hats (Register at the MSOA booth.);
• Food trucks, as well as the Meadows Grub and Go Shack, on the apron;
• A Beer Garden featuring the Leinie Lodge from Leinenkugel, the Bud Light Jeep Gladiator and the Parched Pony Mobile Bar, a customized horse trailer converted to a traveling tavern. Woodford Reserve Mint Juleps are the day’s featured libations.

The celebration continues after the races, when DJ Fresh spins platters from 8 p.m. until 1 a.m. in the H Lounge of The Hyatt Place Pittsburgh South Hotel.

(Meadows Standardbred Owners Association)

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