07/15/2015 11:04AM

Meadowlands: Mission Brief leads Saturday Burke charge

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Derick Giwner
Mission Brief will race with trotting hobbles for the first time on Saturday.

The clock is ticking for trainer Ron Burke. The sport’s leading conditioner came into 2015 with arguably the best 3-year-old trotting prospect in North America with Mission Brief. Many had the daughter of Muscle Hill pegged as a contender for the $1 million Hambletonian against male competition in August at the Meadowlands, but her season has been anything but smooth to date. Burke and Mission Brief hope for improvement on Saturday in the $187,000 Del Miller Memorial at the Meadowlands.

“She trained this morning,” said Burke of Mission Brief on Wednesday. “She was good. Very, very good.”

While Mission Brief is unbeaten in two starts this year, she has clearly not been the same horse that went some blistering miles as a freshman.

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“We’ve had problems with her back,” said Burke. “She wasn’t extending like she did last year and then she was interfering and that made her lose confidence.”

Confidence is something that works in your favor and can work against you and in the case of Burke and Mission Brief, the lack of it has forced Burke to make adjustments.

“We’re going to keep the trotting hopples on her for now,” said Burke, hoping the filly will become more consistent and problem-free.

“She’s 85 percent right now and we’ve got to keep working to get her to 100 percent,” said Burke.

Mission Brief drew post three in the Miller and she’ll be making her first pari-mutuel start with trotting hopples. It will be the first major test of the season against open company and the field is quite strong. Wild Honey, a multiple Pennsylvania Sire Stakes horse for the Takter stable, drew inside of her from post two. Wild Honey actually has a higher win percentage than Mission Brief having captured 12 of 15 career starts.

Trainer Julie Miller has hit the ground trotting this year with Livininthefastlane. The daughter of Donato Hanover has won all three starts in stakes company and enters the Miller following a sharp 1:53 3/5 qualifier at the Meadowlands this past Saturday. Andy Miller will guide Livininthefastlane from post four.

Reynolds stakes winner Magic Marker, fresh off a 1:52 2/5 career best mile, drew post six with David Miller listed to drive.

While Mission Brief has been a project, Burke is happy with the way Crazy Wow is coming into the $159,725 Stanley Dancer.

“I thought he raced very well at Pocono. That’s not an easy track to close on and his cover really didn’t take him where he needed to be,” said Burke in regard to the third-place finish of Crazy Wow in the Beal final. The son of Crazed drew the pole position in a field of seven with Brian Sears in the bike. This Dancer division goes as race four on the 14-race program.

Soundness has been an issue as well in the Burke barn for the $2.2 million winning Rocklamation. Yet the trainer believes the 7-year-old by Rocknroll Hanover may have turned the corner. “Two starts back she came home in 25 3/5 and her last start she was very strong,” said Burke of Rocklamation, one of two mares he’ll send out in the $213,450 Golden Girls final (race 9).

“I think the aged mare pacing division is wide open,” said Burke, who will also send out Sayitall BB from post one in the 12-mare field.

The racing world has become spoiled with the success of Foiled Again, but Burke sounded as if he recognizes that the old boy can’t get it done this year as he has done in nearly every year of his brilliant career.

“He can’t just overpower these horses anymore,” said Burke. “He’s not going to close off a half in 55 (seconds).” The trainer was alluding to the slow half in the $500,000 Ben Franklin at Pocono two weeks ago. “I think he’ll be fine if they get to the half in 53 (seconds).”

Foiled Again faces a field of eight rivals in the $430,600 William Haughton Memorial, race eight on the card. Foiled Again has but one victory in seven starts this year, an impressive 1:50 3/5 win in the Battle of Lake Erie at Northfield Park. The 11-year-old sports lifetime earnings of $7,014,031. Foiled Again drew post four with regular pilot Yannick Gingras in the bike.

The Saturday Meadowlands card kicks off at 7:15 p.m. and features eight stakes races.