Photo: In Southwind Frank, Ron Burke has another monster in his barn
LEXINGTON, KY – It was about this time last year that Ron Burke was setting the harness racing world on fire with a world-record setting 2-year-old by Muscle Hill. As the late, great Yogi Berra would say, “it’s deja vu all over again.”
One year and six days after Mission Brief set a world record for 2-year-old trotting fillies with her sensational mile at The Red Mile, Southwind Frank added the Burke name to the record books yesterday. Driven by Yannick Gingras, he won a division of the International Stallion Stakes in 1:52.2. Though that’s still considerably slower than Mission Brief’s 2-year-old mark of 1:50.3, it did set a world record for 2-year-old male trotters on a one-mile track.
“It’s definitely cool,” Gingras also said in response to driving the world’s fastest 2-year-old trotters at Lexington. “I’m fortunate enough to drive for two powerful stables that have a lot of babies and young trotters. It’s definitely been a thrill, and now both of them are great horses [the other being Mission Brief].”
Both horses are, of course, by Muscle Hill. Both, to this point in their careers, had never lost a race in which they did not break stride.
Gingras changed tactics yesterday, taking Southwind Frank farther back in the early going than has been customary. He sat patiently in fifth before pulling midway down the backstretch. Still, Gingras was in no hurry. He tipped out near the top of the stretch, went three wide and absolutely blew past Lagerfield to get the win.
“We’ve been looking to race him from the back, but you’re 1-9 sometimes and everyone else is waiting for you,” Yannick Gingras said. “Today, nobody was waiting for us, and it was a good thing. I wanted to race him from the back and trot home. He sure did.”
Southwind Frank, now 9 for 10 lifetime, paid $2.10.
He may not be as talented as Mission Brief, but he may not have to be. The Burke-trainee is clearly the best in his division, a division where Jimmy Takter is surprisingly weak. A lot can change between now and the 2016 Hambletonian, where Mission Brief finished second, but the Burke barn certainly has the runaway top contender right now for next year’s Hambo.
There were five divisions of the ISS yesterday at The Red Mile, and leg one went to 3-5 favorite Milligan’s School for the Julie and Andy Miller team. The son of Yankee Glide won for the second time in a week and crossed the wire in 1:53.3.
“I think he’s over them,” Andy Miller said about Milligan’s School’s breaking issues. “It was a little bit unfortunate in the [Pennsylvania] Sires Stakes final [when he broke]; I thought he had a big shot at winning that, and the horse [Love Matters] began to run in front of him. David [Miller] was driving him that day, and when he moved him [Milligan’s School] to go around that horse, he tipped over, so I don’t really think it was his fault that day.”
Takter looked to have the horse to beat in the second ISS race of the day in Love Matters, the 2-5 favorite, but that one went on a break approaching the half. Hollywood Highway took advantage of the situation to win by 2 3/4 lengths for trainer Staffan Lind and driver Tim Tetrick.
Brooklyn Hill, a $390,000 yearling purchase last year, helped justify that price yesterday in the fifth race on the card. Also by Muscle Hill, he won by a neck over Dog Gone Lucky. David Miller drove the winner for Jonas Czernyson. It was Brooklyn Hill’s second win from 10 lifetime starts. His biggest problem has been Southwind Frank, who has finished ahead of Brooklyn Hill six times.
“He raced really, really good,” David Miller said. “He has been racing great all along, but he has just been up against Southwind Frank a lot. He might not have been at his best up in Canada [in the $283,480 William Wellwood Memorial], but he was definitely really good today.”
Dupree captured the last division of the ISS races for trainer-driver Åke Svanstedt, winning by three quarters of a length over Takter’s Bar Hopping. Dupree cost $200,000 last year at Lexington.
“We’ve always had high thoughts about this horse,” assistant trainer Bernie Noren said. “He got a little sick in the middle of the season, but he really showed us the horse he’s supposed to be. I knew he was going to race good in the [Pennsylvania] Sires Stakes final at The Meadows and the driver [Aaron Merriman] drove him carefully up there.”
“Last week, the track was so heavy. You can see today that the horse [Dupree] is running much faster. He’s really good and showed he has a really good head, answering to the horse on the inside [Bar Hopping] and the outside [Petrossian As].”
“If everything works out okay and he works fine tomorrow we’re going to go for the Breeders Crown, of course. But this is a very tough group; very talented horses have won today, so it’s going to be tough to come up there, too.”