05/03/2016 7:38PM

Pocono: Burke quartet ready for battle in Pennsylvania Classic Final

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Curtis Salonick
Check Six (1) kept his nose in front at the wire in his PA Classic elimination.

Ron Burke will send four horses to Saturday night’s $561,500 Pennsylvania Classic at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono and he is undecided, at this point, which is the best. Of course, with three of them leading the morning-line odds, it is easy to understand why.

“It looks like they’re all at least good,” Burke said about his quartet, led by morning-line favorite Check Six and also including JK Will Power, Big Top Hanover, and Manhattan Beach. “If there is anyone that I’d lean toward that I think is my best one, especially on a big track, it’s Check Six. But after the other day I really couldn’t tell.”

Check Six and JK Will Power won last weekend’s eliminations for Saturday’s final, which is for Pennsylvania-sired 3-year-old male pacers. Check Six edged Big Top Hanover by a nose in 1:50 4/5 and JK Will Power defeated The Catamount Kid by a neck in 1:51 1/5, with Manhattan Beach finishing third.

Last year, Check Six won four of nine races and earned $114,889 for owners Burke Racing Stable, the partnership of Mark Weaver and Mike Bruscemi, William Switala, and James Martin. He put together a four-race win streak after a third-place finish in his debut and second-place finish two weeks later. But he stepped on a nail and was slow to regain his form after battling an infection.

A son of Somebeachsomewhere out of the mare Southwind Vanna, Check Six is 2-for-2 this season and will start the Pennsylvania Classic from post four with driver Yannick Gingras. Check Six is a half-brother to Sagamore Hills Pacing Series champion Rodeo Romeo and his family includes 1994 O’Brien Award winner Village Jiffy.

“I thought he was my best colt last year, for sure,” Burke said. “I didn’t even think it was a question. Then he stepped on a nail and it took him forever to get over the infection. But he’s come back great.”

JK Will Power, the 3-1 second choice on the morning line, also is 2-for-2 this year. Last season, the son of Somebeachsomewhere out of the stakes-winning mare Whats New Pussycat won two of nine races and earned $123,757 for owner 3 Brothers Stables. His family includes past Breeders Crown champ Molly Can Do It and Pennsylvania Sire Stakes champ Billie Bluechip.

“He was super,” Burke said about JK Will Power’s elimination, where he took the lead prior to the halfway point and held off The Catamount Kid. “He doesn’t love the lead, and he still fought off (The Catamount Kid). He’s a little bit lazy; he’s better with a target.”

JK Will Power, who starts Saturday from post three with driver David Miller, battled growing pains last year but is much improved this season.

“I think it’s going to lead to him being a lot better horse,” Burke said. “I can see him taking a big step in the right direction.”

Big Top Hanover won last year’s Matron Stakes and a division of the International Stallion and finished second in the Breeders Crown. All totaled, he won four of 15 starts in 2015 and earned $450,253 for owners JT45 and Burke Racing Stable. This year, he has a second- and third-place finish in two starts.

The colt is 4-1 on the Pennsylvania Classic morning line and will leave from post one with driver Matt Kakaley. His second dam, Ain’t No Stopn Me, was a Pennsylvania Sire Stakes champion and the mother of stakes-winner Cheyenne Rei. His family also includes stakes-winners Ain’t No Stopn Him and Lon Todd Hanover, as well as Artstopper, who is the dam of Breeders Crown winner Always B Miki and Blue Chip Matchmaker Series winner Yagonnakissmeornot.

“He’s not the flashiest colt, but then you put him in a race and he does even better than you think he’s going to,” Burke said. “I don’t know how good he is. But (post one) is a great spot for him.”

Manhattan Beach will start the Pennsylvania Classic from post nine in the nine-horse field and is 10-1 on the morning line. The gelding will be driven by Jim Morrill Jr.

Last year, Manhattan Beach won one of nine races and earned $97,559 for owners Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi, Geoffrey Lyons Mound, and Wingfield Brothers. He has a win and a third in two starts this season. A son of Somebeachsomewhere out of the world-champion mare Benear, he is a full brother to 2014 Little Brown Jug winner Limelight Beach and Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championship runner-up Momas Got A Gun.

“He was the only one that finished (last week) raging with pace,” Burke said. “I thought it was a great prep for him. Where he drew is a disaster, but it is what it is.”

Burke said it was a challenge to get horses ready this early for a major test, but the allure of a half-million-dollar purse was too difficult to pass.

“Most of the horses going in there were coming off qualifiers or one start,” Burke said. “It was hard to get them ready like that. But it’s very hard to give that race up. You win this race, for any of these colts, their year is made.”

Pocono will conduct two race cards Saturday sandwiching the Kentucky Derby. The first card, with first-race post time of 11 a.m., features three divisions of the Pennsylvania All-Stars for 3-year-old male trotters. The evening card, in addition to the Pennsylvania Classic, includes the $313,800 Miss Pennsylvania for Pennsylvania-sired 3-year-old female pacers.

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