Michael “Mickey” Burke Sr., 87, dies

Ken Weingartner

Hightstown, NJ — Michael “Mickey” Burke Sr., the 2006 Trainer of the Year and first trainer in history to surpass $10 million in purses in a single season, passed away Monday morning at the age of 87.

Mr. Burke, the patriarch of the Burke Racing Stable now led by his son Ron, won 3,167 races and $35.4 million in purses since the inception of official trainer statistics in 1991. The western Pennsylvania native’s involvement in harness racing began as a horse owner in 1955 and he drove in his first race at an Ohio fair in 1956 at the age of 20.

After selling his car dealership in 1981, Mr. Burke turned his attention to training on a fulltime basis. His first star was Maltese Artist, who was a multiple Grand Circuit winner as a 4-year-old in 2005 and went on to earn $2.32 million lifetime.

Mickey Burke Sr. passed away at the age of 87. USTA/Mark Hall photo.

In the ensuing years, the Burke Stable became associated with many of the sport’s great horses, including Hall of Fame pacers Foiled Again (who retired in 2018 with a record $7.63 million in earnings) and Sweet Lou (2014 Pacer of the Year) as well as Hall of Fame trotters Hannelore Hanover (the 2017 Horse of the Year) and Mission Brief (to be inducted in July), not to mention numerous Dan Patch Award honorees.

Mr. Burke turned the stable’s daily operations over to his son Ron in 2009 but remained active in working with young horses and as an owner. The Burke Stable has led all training stables in wins and purses every year since 2005.

The entire Burke family has been involved in harness racing either through active participation or horse ownership: Mr. Burke’s wife, Sylvia, who is the stable’s bookkeeper; sons Ron and Mickey Jr., and daughters Michelle, Rebecca, and Melissa.

Mr. Burke and Sylvia were named to the Little Brown Jug Wall of Fame in 2021. Two years earlier, Mr. Burke received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Monticello-Goshen chapter of the U.S. Harness Writers Association.

Additional details will be announced when available.

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