FORT WASHINGTON, MD - Ron Burke is a numbers guy. You would expect as much from a trainer juggling a 250-horse stable of trotters and pacers and has been the best in the harness business for a decade.
Burke, based in Washington, Pa. at The Meadows as well as a nearby farm, never misses one of his pupil’s starts, be it in person or via a computer or television screen. He will have his eye on the mobile starting gate Sunday when he sends out both Filibuster Hanover and Rockin Ron in the $100,000 Potomac Pace at Rosecroft Raceway.
Not only does Burke, 49, know his business in and out, he also knows the storyline of outstanding accomplishments by other in the standardbred community.
He took notice last weekend when Aaron Merriman, a regular at both The Meadows and Northfield Park in northeastern Ohio, became the first driver in harness history to win 1,000 races in two seasons.
“Aaron drives for me. I’ve done what he’s done twice as a trainer. I’m hoping to do it again this year,” said Burke who has sent out 924 winners this year through Nov. 28. “I’m very proud of having that many wins.”
And a stack of purse dollars, as well. Burke became the first harness trainer to cash for more than $100 million in career earnings (in 2014) and this year soared over the $200 million mark.
Another Burke milestone was becoming the first trainer to earn $20 million in a single season. He has done so six consecutive years, including this season. The $28,414,071 his stable banked in 2014 is the highest by a trainer of any breed.
All this from a 6-foot-5 horseman who once told the New York Times that, as a youngster, “I was scared to death of (horses), and that’s not a lie.”
Burke, won the inaugural Potomac Pace in 2016 when his All Bets Off rallied to prevail by a nose over Split The House while equaling the Rosecroft then track record of 1:48 2/5. All Bets Off finished second in last year’s Potomac renewal.
“The race has been good to me,” said Burke.
Burke believes that while Rockin Ron has banked $532,311 this season, Filibuster Hanover gives him his best shot at winning this year’s Potomac.
“He’s ready to roll,” said Burke. “He’s been facing the best of the best all season.”
Filibuster Hanover drew the No. 4 post in the Potomac field of eight and has won five of 18 starts and $636,601 this year. His biggest victories came earlier this year when he won the May 27 Commodore Barry Invitational at Harrah’s Philadelphia and May 20 Confederation Cup at Flamboro Downs.
Filibuster Hanover ran into the red-hot McWicked (12 for 19 for $1.5 million this year) in the Oct. 27 Breeders Crown Final Open Pace and had to settle for second money.
“He’s only four and that was a big effort in the Breeders Crown,” said Burke. “I’m confident he’ll race well in the Potomac.”