Burke reaches 10,000-win plateau at Big M

East Rutherford, NJ – The incomparable Ron Burke raised the training dash-win bar to new heights Friday night (July 26) at the Meadowlands, as the 49-year-old Washington, PA native became the first conditioner in harness racing history to record 10,000 career victories.

The Meadowlands’ Jessica Otten (right) presents the congratulatory 10,000-win sign to Ron Burke’s longtime second-trainer Shannon Murphy Friday night at the Meadowlands. Lisa Photo.

“It’s cool,” said Burke. “The next guy is probably 10 years away from doing it. It’s never been done before and I’m very proud of our whole crew, my whole family.”

Burke won three times on the Friday twilight program at his home track – the Meadows in Washington, PA – to raise his win total to 9,999, setting the stage for the big one at the Big M.

In an elimination for the Jim Doherty Memorial for 2-year-old trotting fillies, Crucial, a daughter of Father Patrick-Jolene Jolene, gave Burke the victory that raised his lifetime win total to five figures by scoring in 1:54.3 and paying $6 for the stable’s go-to driver, Yannick Gingras.

“Ten years ago, I wasn’t so sure we’d get here, but five years ago, maybe I thought we’d get to this point,” said Burke. “We were just starting to take off then, and the addition of (owner) Mark Weaver made a big difference. It gave us someone who acquires horses all day, every day. We used to sit together at the Meadows and watch races and we could tell we were pretty good together and we wanted to go to the next level.”

Crucial and driver Yannick Gingras take a Jim Doherty Memorial elimination at the Meadowlands Friday night, giving trainer Ron Burke 10,000 career wins. Lisa Photo.

Mission accomplished.

It’s a pretty sound bet that Burke will stay at the top of both the dash-win and money-earnings lists for some time to come. Virgil Morgan, Jr. currently sits second in wins with just over 6,400, and the now-retired Jimmy Takter is second in earnings at $130 million. Burke’s horses have earned $222 million.

“It all started when my dad sold the family business selling cars in 1981. We had two horses then. Now, I have about 300 and about 70 people on my staff,” said Burke. “I became the face of Burke Racing 11 years ago. There are so many of us. I put a lot of time into it but I could not have done it by myself. I thought by now I’d slow down, but I don’t have any feel for when that will happen. I love what I’m doing, I love racing and the sport seems to be doing well.”

Maybe that’s true, just not quite as well as Ron Burke is doing.

CHALK TALK: Nine favorites scored on the 14-race program, setting up small payouts on the 50-Cent Pick-5 ($70.40) and Pick-4 ($13.05). Of the five losing chalks, three went off at odds of 2-1 while one was 5-2.

A LITTLE MORE: Burke’s home track might be in Western Pennsylvania, but he loves the East Rutherford mile oval. “The Meadowlands is still the greatest place,” said Mr. 10,000. … It figures that on a big night for Burke that Gingras would excel. The Big M’s leading driver scored four times on the card. … All-source wagering on the 14-race program totaled $2,434,672. … Racing resumes Saturday (July 27) at 7:15 p.m.

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