10/14/2014 1:08PM

Harness: Burke stable continues to break records

Ron Burke has trained horses to earnings over $22 million this year.

With the record for purses in the bank and 11 weeks remaining on the calendar, trainer Ron Burke is now left to contemplate how much his stable can increase its earnings before the end of the year.

Burke, who in 2013 became the first trainer to eclipse $20 million in a season -- finishing the campaign with $22.23 million, moved $9,333 beyond that figure this year thanks to earning $11,750 at Yonkers Raceway on Monday night. His stable broke last year’s mark when pacer Rockstar Temper won the sixth race.

“It’s neat because coming into this year I thought we might not be able to reach that,” Burke said. “Now to reach it this early, you wonder how far you can go. The next mark is 25 (million dollars). There’s not a ton of stakes races left, but there’s enough that if we can put together a run, maybe we could do 25.”

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Last year, Burke’s horses won 25 races worth at least $100,000. This season, the “Burke Brigade” has captured 38 races worth at least $100,000. Among those victories were 3-year-old pacer JK Endofanera in the North America Cup, 5-year-old pacer Sweet Lou in the Ben Franklin Pace and William R. Haughton Memorial, 3-year-old pacer Limelight Beach in the Little Brown Jug, and 2-year-old trotter Mission Brief in the Merrie Annabelle.

He also won four New York Sire Stakes championships, plus two sire stakes crowns each in Pennsylvania and Ohio, and one in New Jersey.

“Ohio is probably some of the reason, there’s been a rebirth there and that gave us a chance to race a little bit more, and the Meadowlands was stronger this year, so that probably helps a little bit,” Burke said. “And we have way more stakes horses than we’ve had in the past. We went with a lot more young horses. That’s one area where I thought we were set up better because we had more young horses to start with.

“But it gets to the point where we’re racing against ourselves a lot of times. It’s the law of diminishing returns. Sometimes we have four in a race; we can only win that race once. That’s one thing we’re trying to get away from and spread out to different areas a little more. We want to try to get away from racing so many times against ourselves.”

Burke, who leads the purse standings for trainers by more than $12 million, has won 887 of 4,164 races this year. Last season, Burke started 4,494 horses and won a record 1,090 races.

“That’s another thing, I didn’t think we could ever start 5,000 horses, and we’re going to be close,” Burke said. “That’s incredible when you figure it’s like 13 a day, every day. That means if you start none today, you’ve got to start 26 tomorrow. But that’s just how big it’s gotten.”

Burke, who turns 45 on Thursday, has won a record 5,482 races and $117 million in his career. He took over the Burke Stable from his father, Mickey, on a fulltime basis in 2009 and was named Trainer of the Year in 2011 and 2013 by the U.S. Harness Writers Association. His Burke Racing Stable also was honored, with its partners, as Owner of the Year in 2013.

-Courtesy of Harness Racing Communications, a division of the U.S. Trotting Association. For more information, please visit www.ustrotting.com