Burke Brigade has the 13 best money-winning seasons

by Bob Heyden

Now that Ron Burke has reached 10,000 career training wins, his next milestone is reaching $10 million on the year, which may come on Hambletonian Day.

The 13 biggest money-winning seasons of all-time (USTA) are from a Burke — 11 from Ron and 2 from Mickey, Sr.

The $28,414,071 earned by Team Burke in 2014 is the high water mark from a record 5,031 starts.
Greenshoe and Sears

Greenshoe will try and give Brian Sears his fourth Hambletonian for four different trainers. John Campbell’s first four Hambletonians were also for different trainers.


2019 — Marcus Melander?
2013 — George Ducharme
2015 — Jimmy Takter
2009 —Greg Peck


1987 — Chuck Sylvester
1988 — Jan Johnson
1990 — Osvaldo Formia
1995 — Jim Campbell

(He then repeated for Chuck Sylvester in 1998 with Muscles Yankee and added Blair Burgess in 2006 with Glidemaster)

Sears winning four times in 11 editions would be close to the Billy Haughton (1974-1976-1977-1980) and Mike Lachance (1994-1996-1999-2003)

Swedish muscle

Marcus Melander will try and become the fifth different trainer born in Sweden to win the Hambletonian.
1985-1991-1992 — Per Eriksson 
1988 — Jan Johnson 
2001 — Stefan Melander 
1997-2009-2014-2015 — Jimmy Takter

Jumping off an undefeated colt?

There’s a possibility that a driver will take OFF an undefeated, Breeders Crown-winning divisional winner (Gimpanzee) for another colt. This reminds us of 2000-2001-when the outstanding Spellbound Hanover — winning at near 80 per cent — saw John Campbell switch from her to Syrinx Hanover, who just so happened to go undefeated in 2001 (12-for-12) and was the Horse of the Year runnerup.

Four Hambletonian winners still at it

That’s right there are four Hambletonian winners still racing — 2015 winner Pinkman, 2016 winner Marion Marauder, 2017 winner Perfect Spirit (A winner last week in Sweden) and 2018 winner Atlanta. Can anyone remember four consecutive Hambletonian winners all racing in the same calendar year?

Bill Popfinger — possibly Hall of Fame bound

For those new to the sport, here’s a look back — and for some a refresher course — on some of the standouts that were trained and driven by new Hall Of Famer nominee Bill Popfinger.

He was second — from post 10 — in the $250,000 1975 Monticello OTB Classic-with Shirleys Beau. That was the sport’s biggest purse to that point-and “Silkie”, Silk Stockings, won it.

He was the winner of the 1978 Little Brown Jug with Happy Escort — and remember that HOY Abercrombie was in there.

He was second with Say Hello in the first ever Woodrow Wilson that went for $280,000 in 1977 and was won by No No Yankee.

He was the driver of Happy Motoring— a top colt who sired, from his first crop, On The Road Again.

He also drove a solid performer named Good To See You.

He was second in the sport’s richest ever race with Praised Dignity in the 1984 Woodrow Wilson ($2,161,000).

His richest trotting filly was Spellbound Hanover, who won just under $1 million for owner Bill Mulligan-and had the misfortune of being born the same year as Syrinx Hanover. She is the dam of the richest Triple Crown winner of all time in standardbred history — Marion Marauder.