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Burke Aims For Borgata Trio

Published: April 9, 2021 4:38 pm ET

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With two horses already guaranteed spots in the final of the MGM Borgata Series for older male pacers, trainer Ron Burke will look to add a third on Monday (April 12), when Yonkers Raceway hosts the last preliminary round of the six-week event.

Based on points accumulated in the series, the Burke Brigade’s Rockapelo and This Is The Plan are among five horses to have already secured places in the eight-horse final on April 19. The others are Western Joe, Hesa Kingslayer N and Leonidas A.

Burke’s Backstreet Shadow is in the best position to join that group, pending the outcomes in Monday’s last preliminary divisions of the series. Backstreet Shadow, sixth in points, is the 8-5 morning-line favourite in the first of the last three Borgata splits, starting from post one.

The six-horse field also includes four of the five horses directly behind Backstreet Shadow in the standings: San Domino A and Lyons Steel, who are tied for seventh, ninth-place Raukapuka Ruler N, and 11th-place Tyga Hanover. The remaining horse in the field is series leader Western Joe.

Other horses that could bolster their chances of making the final with wins on Monday are Mach N Cheese and Macs Jackpot, who are both in the second division, and Ostro Hanover, who is in the third. None are morning-line favourites.

Backstreet Shadow has a win and two second-place finishes in the Borgata. A trainer can start only one horse in a division, and Burke has four horses in the series, so Backstreet Shadow sat out last week’s leg after coming up sick in his second-place finish on March 29.

“He had a legitimate excuse his last start,” said Mark Weaver, who is among the owners of Backstreet Shadow, as well as Rockapelo and This Is The Plan. “We had to give someone the week off, so it just made sense for it to be him. We expect him to be pretty good this start and then hopefully even better in the final.”

Backstreet Shadow, a six-year-old gelding, has won 25 of 63 career races and $890,162. Last year, he won the Roll With Joe Stakes and hit the board in the Breeders Crown, TVG Open Pace Series championship, Sam McKee Memorial, and Allerage Farms Open Pace.

“I think Backstreet Shadow and This Is The Plan are two of the top five or six aged pacers,” Weaver said. “They’ve been factors the last several years. Hopefully, they are again, all season long. This is just the start of a long year, hopefully, for them.”

This Is The Plan, a six-year-old gelding with $1.8 million in career purses, has a win and three second-place finishes in the Borgata. He is the 2-1 second choice in Monday’s third division.

Rockapelo, a 2018 New York Sire Stakes champion who has been lightly tested on the Grand Circuit, is sitting out Monday’s action. The six-year-old gelding has two wins, a second-place finish and a fifth-place finish in the series.

Nine of his most recent 12 victories have come at Yonkers.

“He’s kind of a Yonkers specialist, a grinder,” Weaver said. “He’s surprised us. This will be his Super Bowl, so to speak, for the year. After this, it will be back to overnights.”

The Burke Stable has traditionally been deep with talented older male pacers. The returning group this season also includes a past Dan Patch Award winner, Dorsoduro Hanover, as well as millionaire Filibuster Hanover, Elver Hanover, The Greek Freak and Covered Bridge.

“The aged division is kind of our bread and butter,” Weaver said. “If you get a couple good ones, you can really do some damage.

“We try to treat them like a baseball team where you’ve got some major leaguers, but you’re always looking to develop your minor league system. At some point, they’re going to get called up to the big leagues. We’re constantly trying to keep the pipeline going. Hopefully, we have some that can fill the void when the time comes.”

Racing begins at 7:15 p.m. (EDT) Monday at Yonkers.

(USTA)


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