07/26/2016 3:31PM

Meadowlands: Southwind Frank makes final prep for Hambletonian


Ron Burke will get a final look at Southwind Frank prior to next week’s Hambletonian Stakes when the 3-year-old trotter faces 10 rivals in Saturday’s Reynolds Memorial Stakes at the Meadowlands Racetrack.

Burke trained Southwind Frank, the top-ranked horse in Ken Warkentin’s “Road to the Hambletonian” ratings, on Tuesday morning and was pleased with the colt’s effort. The $1 million Hambletonian, also at the Meadowlands, is Aug. 6 and will be televised from 4-5:30 p.m. on CBS Sports Network.

“I was really happy with him,” Burke said. “We changed his bridle the second trip, put a blinker hood on, and I thought he was more aggressive, which is what we’re going for. Soundness-wise he was perfect. Blood-wise, everything’s been good this week. I think he should be super sharp this week.”

The $53,488 Reynolds Memorial features six Hambletonian-eligible trotters: Southwind Frank, stablemate Southwind Flash, Tech Titan, Sliding Home, Honor Above All, and Desert Runner. Southwind Frank will start from post No. 11, which is in the trailing tier, in the 11-horse field.

Southwind Frank has won four of five races this year, with his lone setback coming by a neck to Bar Hopping in his elimination for the Earl Beal Jr. Memorial. Southwind Frank’s victories include the Beal final as well as the New Jersey Sire Stakes championship and a division of the Stanley Dancer Memorial on July 16 at the Meadowlands.

The colt was not eligible to last weekend’s Hambletonian prep, the $300,000 Dr. Harry M. Zweig Memorial at Vernon Downs, which was won by Bar Hopping.

“This was the plan all along,” said Burke, who is among Southwind Frank’s owners as part of the Southwind Frank Partners. “I didn’t want to race (in the Zweig) and then have the week off; I’d rather race him the week before (the Hambletonian). And I didn’t want to race him both weeks.

“Plus (the Reynolds) is another Meadowlands race and not a ship. I want to give him the best opportunity to be as good as he can be on August 6.”

Last year, Southwind Frank won 11 of 12 races and earned $786,419. His wins included the Breeders Crown, Peter Haughton Memorial, and William Wellwood Memorial. In addition, his time of 1:52 2/5 in a division of the International Stallion Stakes set the world record for a 2-year-old male trotter.

He received both the Dan Patch and O’Brien awards for best 2-year-old male trotter.

Southwind Frank, a son of 2009 Hambletonian winner Muscle Hill out of the mare Flawless Lindy, gives Burke a top Hambletonian contender for the second consecutive year. Last year, it was filly Mission Brief, who battled back issues before challenging the boys in the Hambletonian. She won her elimination and finished second to Pinkman in the final.

“Compared to last year with Mission Brief when we were still putting together the pieces at this point, I think everything is coming together and hopefully we’ll get through this week good, be sharp, and get a good draw (for the Hambletonian) and march on,” Burke said.

“He could race the way he was (prior to his equipment changes) but we want to have him as sharp as we possibly can. That’s the whole goal. His best is good enough. We just have to have him at his best.”

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