04/29/2012 12:42AM

Yonkers: Trainer Ron Burke sweeps the Levy and Matchmaker finals

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Ron Burke leads all trainers in wins and earnings.

They say harness racing is a numbers game. Following Saturday’s impressive sweep of the $297,000 Blue Chip Matchmaker and the $455,000 George Morton Levy series, trainer Ron Burke’s numbers paid off in a big way.

The trainer, who sent out a pair of candidates in both major finals, came home with the lion’s share of the purses when his horses upset the favorites.

First it was Rocklamation putting an end to 3-5 favorite See You At Peelers’ winning streak at Yonkers with a perfect-trip conversion in the Matchmaker. Driver Yannick Gingras had everything fall perfectly in front of him behind the 4-year-old daughter of Rocknroll Hanover.

The race went off as expected, with See You At Peelers taking advantage of her rail position and setting the early pace. Driver Brian Sears had things his own was during the opening half primarily because Chancey Lady (Andy Miller) aborted an early leave attempt and then stayed on the outside while not advancing. Chancey Lady’s uncoupled entrymate Anndrovette, the second choice in the field, was allowed to wait until the half before making her charge at the leader.

Anndrovette and See You At Peelers hooked up in an epic duel down the backstretch, hitting the three-quarters in 1:23 2/5 after Peelers had cut the opening quarters in :26 4/5 and :55 3/5. Late on the final turn when Anndrovette, last year’s Dan Patch winner as top pacing mare, drove past the favorite, Gingras was able to slip out with Rocklamation. The mare responded in a big way, angling out from behind cover and gamely overtaking Anndrovette near the wire in a 1:51 3/5 stakes and track record mile.

“There was no strategy involved as far as I was concerned. I was going to try and get away as close as I could and take my shot from there,” said Gingras. “They battled each other and she was in the right place at the right time.”

The winner, owned by Our Horse Cents Stable, Stable 45, and Jerry Silva, returned $12 to win. Anndrovette was a half-length back in second, with the Burke-trained Ginger And Fred rallying for third.

See You At Peelers, unbeaten in four legs of the Matchmaker, faded to seventh.

“She had an elevated heart rate. Last week she was at 103 and this week she came out at 123,” said Jimmy Takter, trainer of See You At Peelers. “We’ll have to take a step back and sleep on what to do from here,” he concluded.

Gingras looked for a double in the Levy final and for the better part of the race looked to be a virtual lock to get it. A brilliant strategist, Gingras shadowed Real Nice (post 7) with champion Foiled Again from his post eight leaving position as the two barreled into the first turn. They raced three wide through much of the first turn and were again three wide going to the quarter as Blatantly Good (George Brennan) made both work very hard before yielding. The cost to Real Nice was  :26 1/5 opening quarter. For Foiled Again, who didn’t gain the lead until late on the second turn, things appeared going according to plan.

From the moment he got the lead Gingras was able to control the race. When multiple leg winner Art Z refused to take the bait and move from fourth as the field approached the half, Foiled Again’s entrymate Atochia advanced out of fifth to go without cover.

At that point things could not have looked any brighter for Foiled Again in his quest for a third Levy championship. The veteran stalled the half to :55 1/5 and had no serious challenges through a pedestrian 1:24 third quarter clocking. But suddenly on the final turn Atochia started getting into gear and advanced towards the pacesetter.

Driver Ron Pierce has earned his reputation as a big money driver and never was that more in force than on Saturday night. Pierce put Atochia next to Foiled Again and the two battled right to the wire. For a moment it looked as if Foiled Again would resist the challenge, but in the end Atochia, a 7-year-old son of Dragon Again would score by a head.

“He’s a good horse. A lot of good horses can sit on the outside with those fractions and still have a good kick on the end of it,” said Pierce, who went on to applaud Foiled Again as a “fighter.”

Gingras was upset by the by the loss but proud of Foiled Again.

“He wasn’t quite as sharp tonight as he has been before. It’s unbelievable, he’s parked in :26 1/5 and he only gets beat a nose. That just shows what kind of horse he is. He is a great horse,” said Gingras.

The 1:52 mile was a full second slower than Razzle Dazzle went in the $100,000 Levy consolation, but that will have no effect on the $227,500 first place money for owners Burke Racing Stable, Weaver-Bruscemi, and MI Stable.

Real Nice bravely held off an airborne Nob Hill High for third money, two lengths off the top pair. Sent off as the 4-5 favorite, Atochia returned $3.60 for the win.

Krispy Apple, a top eight finisher in the Matchmaker but ineligible for the final, scored in the $75,000 consolation as a prohibitive favorite for Tim Tetrick.

Atochia and Foiled Again are likely to see battle again this Saturday (May 5) in the Graduate eliminations at New Meadowlands. The pair should encounter some sharp company with weekend winners Aracache Hanover (Woodbine), Rockincam (Pocono) and Razzle Dazzle (Yonkers) expected to enter.