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Friday, February 22, 2013

Burke Puts Himself in the Bullseye

In today's HRU, Ron Burke proclaims he is not a cheater, in response to all which has been written (and talked) about him.  As in politics, this puts Burke in the bulls eye; reminding me of the time Gary Hart was running for the White House challenged the press to follow him, claiming he was a faithful husband, only to be caught cheating.  When one challenges the media to disprove their innocence, the media will be looking.

I must confess.  While I have had my suspicions with certain trainers, the Burke stable has never been one of them.  Yes, they win a lot of races, but then they have a lot of horses to race so there is seldom a race at the Meadowlands where the Burke stable is not present so you will naturally see more of his horses in the winners circle.  Through last night at the Meadowlands, the Burke Stable has 16 more winners than any other stable there, but those 28 wins comes from 133 starters, meaning the stable has a 21% win rate.  However, when you look at win percentage, the Burke Stable is 9th at the Meadowlands (the statistics coming courtesy of Statsmaster):

Robert Seligman15640%
Steven Weaver30930%
Nick Sunrick26727%
Scott Di Domenico23626%
Henrick Lundell13323%
Joseph Oliseno22523%
Tony Alagna14321%
Kathleen Allen14321%
Ronald Burke1332821%

The only thing the Burke Stable can be accused of with certainty is being too big an operation, almost corporate-like something we usually don't see in harness racing.  You can argue whether stables this big are good for harness racing (I don't think they are) or not, but having a stable as big as the Burke stable doesn't mean someone is cheating.

I had mentioned in an earlier column that TVG will take over operation of starting March 1.  While details are yet to be officially sent to account holders, I did have an exchange with representatives of TVG who in addition to confirming their taking over of, has confirmed existing account holders will not be assessed any fees per wager or video.  While this is welcome news, there are some questions which remain.  For example, under the current system one can go to the track and make deposits to and withdrawals from your account; you can wager using your account while at the track.  TVG has a rewards program, will NJ customers be able to participate in the player rewards program?  Instead of speculating, these questions and others will be answered in an upcoming communication which existing account holders will be receiving from TVG.

Personally, I think on the whole the move to TVG will be beneficial for existing account holders.  Also, the move to TVG will make it easier for New Jersey to implement exchange wagering when it finally gets the go-ahead in the Garden State.

California racing is known for raising their takeouts when it comes to thoroughbred racing; takeout rates in California harness racing are a bargain when compared to their running cousins.  But on the plus side, the California Horse Racing Board is perhaps the most open when it comes to the public being kept informed as to what is going on.  Take a look at their website and see the information which is made available to you, the general public.  Other states should be as open as California when it comes to the regulation of the sport.



Anonymous said...

This is way too small of a sample to compare those trainers to Burke. Maybe those with 20 or more starts are worth looking at. But nmy opinion that is it, and would be of limited use at that.

Anonymous said...

Comparing such a small sample is useless in proving Burke's "innocence" or "guilt". But looking at the overwhelming number of horses that he has improved dramatically at ALL tracks over the past several years paints a much clearer picture. While it seems more fashionable to castigate the Penas of the world, Burke has had way more than his share of "miracle improvements" himself. Not saying this proves anything, but that type of observation is far more significant than the list you posted in today's blog.

Anonymous said...

So the question that should be asked is: If Burke is clean, and his win % is nothing crazy, why do so many owners use him?

Pacingguy said...

This is why I mentioned in the blog that Burke has put himself in the bulls eye. As to why so many owners go over to him, the same could be asked about Jimmy Takter, Ray Schnittker and others.

Yes, the Burke stable may have had miracle improvements; sometimes a trainer can do that. The question is to what degree are we seeing miracle improvements? Some trainers have shown that on almost any horse they claimed or got their hands on.

Time will tell if my faith is misplaced or not. There have been trainers in the past where they flunked my smell test and it later turned out there was something going on. At this point, Burke is passing the smell test.

Anonymous said...

Much credibility is lost when you talk about their "many owners". The fact remains that the Burkes own virtually ALL of their horses, with a select group of partners. Considering you aren't even aware of this (after literally thousands of starts), I'd respectfully suggest that maybe you haven't been following them closely at all (which would also explain why you're unaware of their very long list of Pena-like form improvements). Hint - you don't need to CLAIM one to improve a horse by 15 lengths; it's just as apparent on private purchases, which make up the bulk of their huge stable. PS - as far as "time will tell", perhaps you're also unaware that Ron's dad Mickey was facing a significant suspension when he made a "deal", basically "retitiring" and putting his son down in the program. Of course, Ron doesn't actually sit behind very many of the horses - yet they perform at an amazing rate in 4-5 different states, regardless of who oversees them. Impressive indeed!

Pacingguy said...

I am aware of the fact that almost every horse Burke starts he has partial ownership with other partners.

You are also absolutely correct that you don't need to claim a horse to get an amazing turnaround.

I am also aware that Mickey Burke ran into trouble but just the same you can't convict someone of cheating because their father did (though it certainly gives pause).

What I will admit to is just looking at the Meadowlands standings was not fair either way as his operation is all over. Looking at his UTR nationally is more accurate which is .393. So far this year, his record is 415 starts with 113 wins, 64 seconds, and 44 thirds which currently is his career best (of course it ie early). I will admit winning one out of every four races is unusual.

However, the point remains by proclaiming his innocence, Burke has inadvertingly challenged the press to come get him; hence the bulls eye.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you on Burke: he hasn't failed my smell test either. This Burke hysteria is ridiculous.

The scale of his operation is so much larger than the rest that there is nobody to compare him to.

Anonymous said...

Mickey Burke was a cheat and that makes Ron the son of a cheat. It doesn't prove Ron's a cheat.

When he's at my home track, he's warming up horses and making equipment adjustments. There are plenty of trainers who never warm up their horses on race night.

Sure I have my doubts about the Burke stable because of its success, but what I see is a guy who puts in a lot of time to get the best he can out of a horse.

Until something is proven otherwise, let's recognize him as a top trainer.

Anonymous said...

Casie Coleman hasn't been "proven" a cheat -- is SHE a top trainer?

Even Lou Pena has NO recent positives -- is HE a top trainer?

A couple of years ago it was Andy Miller that was literally launching horses into orbit -- Cheat, or top trainer?

Tracy Brainard can barely describe in an interview what she did to routinely improve horses 15 lengths -- is SHE a "top trainer"?

Sorry, but the double standard here is ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

When you made the Al Gore reference I think you meant Gary Hart (Donna Rice). The Press had pictures of him and Ms. Rice on the aptly named yacht "Monkey Business".

Pacingguy said...

Thanks for correcting me. The ol' memory is not what it once was. I have since made the correction.