09/17/2015 1:56PM

Mohawk: Southwind Frank the clear-cut Wellwood choice

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Southwind Frank has won seven of eight career starts.

Ron Burke says he was all wrong about Southwind Frank. But with the way the horse has raced, the trainer is feeling all right.

Southwind Frank is the 2-5 morning line favorite in Saturday’s C$373,000 William Wellwood Memorial for 2-year-old male trotters at Mohawk Racetrack. The colt has won seven of eight career races -- all stakes events -- and enters Saturday with a six-race win streak. Last Friday, he won his Wellwood elimination by 1-1/2 lengths over Marion Marauder in 1:56 3/5 over a surface labeled “good” because of rain.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been as wrong on a horse as I’ve been with him,” Burke said. “I can’t believe how far he’s come. It’s amazing. I have a good feeling about him.”

The Wellwood is part of a stakes-filled card at Mohawk that also features the C$700,000 Canadian Trotting Classic for 3-year-old male trotters, C$680,000 Maple Leaf Trot for older trotters, C$410,000 Peaceful Way Stakes for 2-year-old female trotters, and C$404,000 Elegantimage Stakes for 3-year-old female trotters.

Burke’s Mission Brief is the 2-5 favorite in the Elegantimage and his Crazy Wow is the third choice in the Canadian Trotting Classic, behind the Jimmy Takter-trained duo of Pinkman, the 7-5 favorite, and Uncle Lasse.

Post time is 7:25 p.m. for the night’s first race.

Southwind Frank, a son of stallion Muscle Hill out of the mare Flawless Lindy, was purchased for $100,000 at the Lexington Selected Sale and comes from a family that includes stakes-winners Cayster, Giant Hit, Program Speed, and Rockaroundtheclock. He failed to impress Burke early in his training for this season, but improved as the work became more serious.

“The faster you go, the better he gets,” Burke said earlier this year. “He couldn’t trot in three minutes to save his life. He was horrible gaited and didn’t have a great attitude. But every time we trained him he got a little better and then at like 2:30 it clicked. He’s been a completely different horse since then. Either we were doing a very bad job at first or we’re doing a great job now.

“Horses learn at their own rates. You can push them all you want; some of them are going to do it quick, some you’re going to have to wait on. He was a $100,000 baby so we didn’t just cut him loose. I thought I had to give him a chance and I kept making stakes payments, and worried I was throwing just good money after bad, but for once it worked out.”

Waiting on Southwind Frank has resulted in victories in the Peter Haughton Memorial, New Jersey Sire Stakes championship, and divisions of the Reynolds and Champlain stakes. The horse has earned $308,579 for owners Burke Racing, the partnership of Mark Weaver and Mike Bruscemi, Our Horse Cents Stables, and J&T Silva Stables.

In his Wellwood elimination, Southwind Frank and driver Yannick Gingras were in third place until the halfway point, then moved to the lead entering the final turn. Marion Marauder pulled even with Southwind Frank at the top of the stretch, but Southwind Frank eased away to post the triumph. The remainder of the field was more than a dozen lengths behind Marion Marauder.

Southwind Frank’s most recent six wins each has been by at least 1-1/2 lengths.

“Yannick was pretty chilly with him, just letting (Marion Marauder) trot to him,” Burke said about the Wellwood elimination. “The announcer was way more worried than I was that we were going to get beat. I was pretty confident. I think that other colt is a nice colt, but I think our colt is starting to look like maybe even better than just a nice colt.”

Burke’s Elegantimage finalist Mission Brief won her elimination last Friday by 15 lengths in 1:54 1/5 over a “sloppy” track. She has posted back-to-back victories since finishing second to Pinkman in the Hambletonian Stakes on Aug. 8.

“She was vicious,” Burke said about Mission Brief, who has won six of eight races this year and 15 of 21 lifetime starts, with career earnings of $1.16 million. “She couldn’t have been better. She’s just getting better and better. She’s as good as she’s been -- ever. I couldn’t be happier with her.”

Muscle Baby Doll also won an Elegantimage elimination, beating Hambletonian Oaks champion Wild Honey by 1-1/4 lengths in 1:56. Trained by Tony O’Sullivan and driven by Doug McNair, the filly has won eight of nine races this year, including divisions of the Duenna and Casual Breeze Stakes. She brings a seven-race win streak into Saturday.

“They said they could go with anybody and we’re going to find out,” Burke said. “If we get beat, it’s going to take a good effort, I think.”

In the Canadian Trotting Classic, Crazy Wow will have to overcome an outside starting position --- post eight --- and a field that includes four Takter trainees, with French Laundry and The Bank joining CTC elimination winners Pinkman and Uncle Lasse.

Crazy Wow, who counts the Colonial Trot among his six victories in 12 starts this year, was second by a head to Uncle Lasse in his elim. He has won 11 of 23 career races and earned $802,965.

“The eight hole is not the best, but it’s not the worst,” Burke said. “He has a shot. It’s going to take a little bit of luck on how he gets into it. That’s what it’s going to come down to.”

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