04/29/2003 11:00PM

Aussie-born Bourke is all-Ohio now


NORTH RANDALL, Ohio - It looks as if owner-breeder-trainer W. John Bourke has come up with another talented Ohio-bred. Last Friday, he sent out the 3-year-old filly Golden Tour for the first time and she tip-toed to an easy 7 1/2-length win in open company. She was ridden by the dean of the Thistledown riding colony, 57-year-old Tommy Meyers.

Golden Tour, a daughter of Lac Ouimet-Bay Glitter (by Rampage) is a half-sister to Highland Rim, who was also bred by Bourke and who in the Hoover Stakes at River Downs as a 2-year-old finished second to Harlan's Holiday - the favorite in the Kentucky Derby last year.

Last Friday was not the first time Meyers had ridden a horse named Golden Tour. At Thistledown on Aug. 29, 1973, he guided the original Golden Tour, who also was trained by Bourke, to a three-quarter-length win. The original Golden Tour was owned by the late Rex Ellsworth, the owner of 1955 Kentucky Derby winner Swaps.

When asked how often he rides Meyers, Bourke jokingly answered, "About every 30 years."

In 1966, Bourke, a native of Australia, was an adventurous 19-year-old on a world tour. Ellsworth had gone to New Zealand to purchase broodmares and Bourke knew the shipping agent who was handling Ellsworth's business. He was able to land a job overseeing the horses on the trip to California.

When they arrived at Ellsworth's California farm, Bourke asked Ellsworth's trainer, Mesh Tenney, if he had a job for him. Tenney sent him to Arlington Park with a division of horses as assistant trainer.

Bourke stayed with Ellsworth for 12 years and trained at almost every race track between Kentucky and New York. In 1969 Ellsworth sent 25 horses to Thistledown with Bourke as his trainer. He decided he would like to stay on the Kentucky-Ohio circuit, and for the past 15 years has been successful while dealing with mostly homebreds. On his farm in Russellville, Ohio, he breeds Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana-bred horses.

Bourke has bred 12 Ohio-bred stakes winners and rates the 3-year-old Golden Tour up there with the best of them.