With Mission Brief coming off a win in New Jersey sire stakes action that was not necessarily visually impressive some are worried that the super filly isn’t at her best right now. Trainer Ron Burke is among them.
Burke has high expectations for the daughter of Muscle Hill and long ago predicted that she could win the Hambletonian, but Burke admitted yesterday that there is something amiss with the horse at the moment. That could be cause for concern for the chalk players when they approach tonight’s fourth race at the Meadowlands, a $100,000 Jersey sire stakes final. Despite drawing the 10 post, Mission Brief will be heavily favored.
Making her first pari-mutuel start of the year May 15 at the Meadowlands, Mission Brief won by 2 1/2 lengths in 1:53.4 but she didn’t look like the horse who exited her 2-year-old year with a powerful win in the Breeders Crown. Her action was not smooth and she appeared to have a hitch in her gait.
Burke agreed that that was not Mission Brief at her best, and he is somewhat concerned that she will again turn in what would be, for her, and only her, a subpar effort tonight.
“She’s not perfect right now,” the trainer said. “We’re trying to iron out what is a little bit of a hitch right now. I think we’re heading in the right direction but I don’t think we’ve got her perfect.
“When she’s switching gears she’s not 100 percent steady right now. It’s not a mental issue. It’s more a physical issue. Mentally, she is really sharp. She is good that way. Mentally, she is into it and I don’t think we’ll have a problem with her in that area.. But, physically, something is bugging her and we’re not quite there yet.”
Mission Brief at 50 percent is probably good enough to win tonight but Burke knows she’s not going to win a Hambletonian if she’s not on top of her game. He said he’s confident he’ll get the matter straightened out in time.
“I have a three week break after this race with her,” he said. “In that three weeks we’ll get it figured out. I think we’re on our way to getting it figured out now. It’s hard because I’m not the most patient person and I want it done now, now, now.”
Originally, Mission Brief drew the three post for this race but there was a snafu and the race had to be redrawn. She was the unlucky one, landing the ten post.
“I don’t think the 10 will hurt her that much,” Burke said. “It let’s her sit out in the middle of the track and find her self and then get going. If somebody goes to park her they’re just throwing their horse away because she’s going to run you down. I think she’ll be all right. I was happier with the three but it is what is. A mistake was made and we have to deal with it.”
There is a lot of star power on tonight’s card at the Meadowlands, which is highlighted by four $100,000 New Jersey sire stakes races. The sixth race, for 3-year-old male pacers, figures to be a dandy as it features 2-year-old champ Artspeak and the red-hot Hurrikane Ali. The latter has won three straight and paced in 1:50.1 last week in sire stakes action.
“We’ve got Ali here, who would like to be the champ,” said John McDermott, who trains the colt with his son John Jr. “But to be the champ (Artspeak) you’ve got to beat the champ, and we ain’t beat him yet.”
Artspeak is among the early favorites for the North America Cup and he looked sharp winning his 3-year-old debut, also in a sire stakes race at the Meadowlands, in 1:49.