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Monday, April 15, 2013

The Burke Juggernaut and Other Musings

The Burke stable had quite a weekend in the NYC metro area.  Let's look at his performance.  On Friday night, the Burke stable won four races at Yonkers, including three divisions of the Blue Chip Matchmaker series.  Saturday night at the Meadowlands, the Burke stable won a division of the Hudson River series while at Yonkers again the Burke stable had a good night winning three of four divisions of the George Morton Levy Memorial series (actually, in one division his horses finished 1-2).

Good for the Burke Stable.  Of course, what is good for the Burke stable is not necessarily good for the overall health of the industry. 

Before we go any further, this post is not about any speculation regarding what any stable may or may not be doing; it is about too many horses being under the control of one stable, albeit horses partially owned by the stable and how it discourages horse ownership and potentially sets the sport up for another Bulletproof Enterprises-type public relations scandal should something ever happen to cause the Burke empire to implode.  Let's make it clear, I am talking in the theoretical; I am not suggesting the Burke stable will be embroiled in any type of situation which would be scandalous; it's just when too many eggs are in one basket and the basket implodes, one heck of a mess reverbes outward.

More likely scenarios are some of the players in the yearling market will get out of the market realizing the insurmountble odds it is to overcome these power stables, especially when the stakes season begins in earnest and they need to compete against the Burke Juggernaut and other stables whose patrons comprise of über partnerships.  Needless to say, the other consequence is other owners who we wish to go into the yearling market will demur, sticking with raceway stock.

What can be done about it?  To be perfectly honest, the only thing I could think of is adopting a rule limiting the number of entries a trainer/owner can have in a race.  Perhaps doing something such as if an owner or trainer enters more than two horses with common ownership, the racing secretary will conduct a random drawing as to which horses will be allowed to race and scratch and refund any starting fees on the others though it may result in a decrease in nominations.  You could argue it would be unfair to these owners, I would suggest it would force owners and trainers to start being more selective in what they nominate their horses to, perhaps racing some in the lesser stakes.  Of course, there are other answers too.  Any suggestions?

The Meadowlands is trying a new way to fill their race cards; you can call it "Pay to Race".  This week's condition sheet has Prep races for the Simpson Memorials.  If a prep races fill with all Simposon-eligible horses, the Meadowlands will pay those horses who start their $500 starting fees for the stakes race.  It will be interesting to see how this works.

The naysayers will say it is just because Tim Tetrick and Yannick Gingras are over at Yonkers these recent weekends due to the Matchmaker and the Levy preliminary legs and because Brian Sears and George Brennan decided to drive full-time across the river, but Corey Callahan has really come into his own at the Meadowlands this season and I predict the rest of the meet will go well for him.  I always said he was going to be a rising star and it appears that prediction is coming true.  Of course, the true test will be when the Meadowlands Championship meet begins; for if Callahan is to be one of the big stars of the sport, he needs to win his share of stakes races at the Meadowlands and on the road.

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