06/17/2015 5:17PM

Meadowlands: Burke trio ready for Graduate

Nikki Sherman
JK Endofanera will have to navigate a bulky field in the Graduate.

The stage has been set for a showdown of sorts on Friday night at the Meadowlands. The first edition of the new Graduate Series takes on a different wrinkle with an oversized field and an added distance. On Friday, the sport’s most talented 4-year-olds, a dozen of them in fact, will race for a $100,000 purse and need to carry their speed for one and one-eighth miles to get the job done.

Not to be outdone by distance or competition is the sport’s leading trainer Ron Burke. He’s prepared three premier 4-year-olds for the assignment with JK Endofanera (post 11) perhaps his best hope.

“We’ve planned to keep him at the Meadowlands,” said Burke, noting that JK Endofanera has raced but twice this year, fewer than any of his 11 rivals in the Graduate. “His gait is great right now. He’ll go on the road after the Meadowlands closes.”

With a draw in the second tier and the added distance, JK Endofanera’s trip could be interesting. Yannick Gingras has the assignment to try to keep the son of Art Major out of trouble while at the same time getting him in position to win the race. In the second leg of the Graduate, contested at the Meadowlands on June 6 at the conventional one-mile distance, JK Endofanera cut the pace and was passed late by the brilliant Rockeyed Optimist.

 “Elliott (trainer Steve) has some nice horses but I wouldn’t trade with him,” said Burke of his threesome in Saturday’s contest.

In addition to JK Endofanera, the Burke brigade will include the razor sharp All Bets Off and the improving Limelight Beach.

“I was happy with the way he raced last time, but he was running out a little,” said Burke of All Bets Off. “We changed his rigging,” he added.

All Bets Off has finished first or second in four of his five starts this year and was second in the June 6 Graduate leg, also to the Elliott-trained Doo Wop Hanover. Burke is hoping that All Bets Off will not be relegated to cutting the pace again.

“With the large field maybe he can work out a different trip,” said Burke, who will give the lines to Matt Kakaley to guide the son of Bettor’s Delight from post five.

All Bets Off owns a victory in the Confederation Cup at Flamboro this year and was second in the Molson.

The speedy Limelight Beach (post 3) has yet to win this year, but Burke still remains quite confident in the son of Somebeachsomewhere. “He’s actually been very good this year. In his case, it looks as if his great early speed has been a curse,” said Burke. Indeed Limelight Beach has gotten away first in many of his races but then has been forced into some difficult trips. Nevertheless, he was a good third in the Graduate leg on June 6 and could be a player on Friday night.

Trainer Steve Elliott also sends out three in the Graduate leg, race 10 of a dozen on Friday at the Meadowlands. His best two could be handicapped in some ways with 8-5 morning line favorite Doo Wop Hanover and 2-1 second choice Rockeyed Optimist saddled with posts eight and nine respectively. Both have captured two consecutive legs of the Graduate when the race was at a mile distance and the fields were more compact. Friday’s contest will test the mettle of each, with John Campbell again to guide Doo Wop Hanover and Tim Tetrick controlling the lines behind Rockeyed Optimist.

Andy Miller guides Lyonssomewhere, a 1:48 2/5 breakout mile winner last Saturday at the Meadowlands. The speedster drew the rail position and hopes to improve on two fourth-place finishes in earlier Graduate leg action.

Burke is hopeful that Gural Hanover will be a little sharper for the Graduate leg for 4-year-old trotters on Friday night.  An 8-1 offering from the pole position (race 7), Gural Hanover faces a solid field but has post position advantage. “He wasn’t as good as he was in his qualifier,” said Burke of Gural Hanover’s second-place finish behind the mare Shake It Cerry in the second Graduate leg. Gural Hanover had previously won his qualifier in a brisk 1:51 3/5 clocking.

“This is a very strong group of 4-year-olds,” said Burke, obviously pointing towards Father Patrick (post 10) and his most recent conqueror JL Cruze (post 4).

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