12/12/2014 11:36PM

Harness: Ron Burke passes Todd Pletcher as single-season earnings leader

USTA Photo
Horses trained by Ron Burke have earned over $22 million for the second straight year.

Trainer Ron Burke had already re-written the record books in Harness Racing and now he stands atop the leaderboard across all breeds in single-season earnings. On Friday (12/12) he surpassed the $28,116,097 mark set by Thoroughbred trainer Todd Pletcher in 2007.

Wins by Set Me Up and Appomattox at the Meadowlands, and  Pappy's Pal at Yonkers Raceway helped put Burke over the top. Fittingly Yannick Gingras, who is one of the regular drivers for the barn, was in the bike for both Meadowlands victories.

“It was nice to have Yannick get it. Along with Matt Kakaley and a few others, they're our guys,” said Burke, who admitted that having top drivers like Gingras make him look good. “It is a huge difference. I never have to take the eighth or ninth drivers at the track. I always get the top one, two, or three. You need aggressive guys to win.”

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Burke has started 4,943 horses in 2014 while winning 1071 races. After his final horse finished on Friday his earnings total stood at $28,146,935 with more than two weeks of racing still to come. Last year his stable won an amazing 1,090 races and $22 million in purse money.

“I wouldn’t have thought we could do it (eclipse the 2013 mark) at the beginning of the year. I thought we would just stay even,” said Burke, who wasn’t predicting a repeat as he reviewed his prospects for the coming year. “I have the best set of 2-year-olds I have ever had this year and the best set of yearlings, but I lose (Sweet) Lou and Foiled (Again) gets a year older. My aged pacers and trotters are in shambles a bit, but we'll rebuild it”

Lisa Photo      Set Me Up and Yannick Gingras.

It is a team effort in the Burke barn. One man can hardly manage 280 horses, a number Burke says will be down to his preferred level of 240 by June.

“It’s Team Burke. These are guys that have been here eight to nine years,” said Burke. “It is like Yannick always says to me, ‘If the horses race badly, everybody in the barn has their heads down.’”

Despite all his success, Burke is not one to become content. He is already looking forward to 2015 and wondering if the good times will keep rolling. “I’ll be nervous when the year starts,” said Burke. “There is lots of pressure to do well. My dad is the calm one who always feels like we’ll be fine, but I’m my own worst critic.”

Burke, 45, took over full time training duties from his father Mickey back in 2009 and has seen the stable earnings rise each year under his leadership. He has a passion for Harness Racing that goes beyond just an occupation.

“This is a great sport. I’m proud to be a part of it,” he said. 

[Editor's Note: A report on harnessracingupdate.com suggests that Todd Pletcher actually earned $28,571,697 in 2007. The $28,116,097 figure listed above does not include $400,000 he reportedly made in Dubai that year.]