Plainville, MA – The Grand Circuit returns to Massachusetts for the second time this year as Plainridge Park hosts another new stake added to their schedule, the $100,000 Battle of Bunker Hill Trot for 3-year-olds that will be held on Monday afternoon (May 16).
There is a small but select field of sophomore trotting colts and geldings entered for the race and that group is led by S I P (Bar Hopping-Barbara Brooks), who has been installed as the heavy morning line favorite.
S I P had an outstanding freshman year amassing $262,682 in earnings on the strength of multiple stake wins. He was game in Grand Circuit events like the $293,450 Peter Haughton trot at the Meadowlands where he finished only 1-3/4 lengths behind the eventual Dan Patch 2-year-old trotter of the year King Of The North, but S I P made the bulk of his cash in sire stake events in Kentucky and Pennsylvania, where he won the $253,000 final at The Meadows.
Hall of Famer Ron Burke trains S I P and was happy with what the colt has accomplished so far. But he also feels his transition from two to three may prove there is more to come this year.
“He ran a couple good ones in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes last year but he trots a five-eighth’s better than he trots any other size track. He became a little bit of an “inner-outer” at the end of the year. Some days he’d be good, some days he would not be. That was him at the end of the year just kind of hit or miss,” said Burke.
“He may have been a little bit over raced so we gave him a lot of time off and took our time bringing him back. I think he’s grown up and matured mentally so this year he should be a little bit better. The first qualifier at the Meadowlands we kind of babied him around there and that’s really not his style. So the next one we put him in play and he was great. Then in his first start at Harrah’s Philadelphia he won it very easily and acted like himself. He finished good, well within himself, everything you want to see in a race.”
Among the stakes S I P is eligible for this year is the Hambletonian, but entering that race is not a given. It will take a few more starts to evaluate how far S I P has come before that decision will be made.
“The Hambo might be a bit of a reach for him but if he could get good, I’ve gotten used to prepping them for that race and I know I could get him as sharp as he could be on that day. If he’s even close to being competitive we’re going to give it a shot,” said Burke.
“His main schedule this year will be the sire stakes again in Pennsylvania and Kentucky and there’s a lot of money to go for just in those two programs. So we’re going to try and double-dip again like we did last year and try to race them both.”
Those races are in the future but there is business at hand in Massachusetts. And with a short field and good draw, there is no question the Burke Brigade is quite optimistic.
“I’m thrilled about his chances on Monday, I couldn’t be happier. He’s in a good spot, I’m glad Yannick (Gingras) is going because he knows him and he knows the track up there too. So I’m really happy,” Burke concluded.
SIP will leave from post one and is listed at 6-5.
There are some nice trotting stock in this field besides the favorite and Jonas K S (Centurion ATM-Crown Classic) is one of them. He was unraced at two but has looked very impressive in early work this year. After winning his qualifier by five lengths at the Meadowlands on April 9 in 1:58.3, back half in :56.3 and final quarter in :26.4, Jonas K S has started once in an overnight at Mohegan Sun Pocono where he won in gate to wire fashion by 2-3/4 lengths in 1:57.4.
Jonas K S has drawn post five and trainer Ake Svanstedt has named top Plainridge teamster Kevin Switzer Jr. to steer his colt.
Bill Bauer (E L Titan-Miss Flaggy Meadow) was the Massachusetts Sire Stake 2-year-old male trotting champion in 2021 after he won the $100,000 final at Plainridge Park in a lifetime best 1:57.4. Although he competed in the New York Sire Stakes early on, he really hit his stride when he got to Massachusetts and he definitely has an advantage in the race by knowing this track.
Massachusetts native Paul Kelley trains Bill Bauer and has his driver from last year, Drew Monti, back in the bike. The pair will start from post four.
Another lightly raced gelding is Wily Wally (Walner-Cameron Hill) who has one win in only three starts last year and that was a non-winners of one race at Lexington in 1:56. So far this year he qualified and raced once at Plainridge and finished second in both outings. However he got to know the track and that is meaningful going into this race. Plus his trainer Domenico Cecere and driver Bruce Ranger are intimately familiar with Plainridge and can put this horse in the best position to be competitive.
And finally, although winless at two, With A Warning (Credit Winner-Concentration) also had a good run in the Massachusetts Sire Stakes last year, cashing checks in all four starts including a second-place finish in the final behind Bill Bauer. He qualified in Florida on April 13 and got his first lifetime win at Saratoga two weeks ago in a gate-to-wire effort timed in 2:00.1, winning by 2-1/4 lengths. Trainer George Ducharme is also a Massachusetts native and knows Plainridge well after racing there for over 20 years. He has named Plainridge regular Nick Graffam to drive from mid-pack in post three.
Post time for the first of 10 races on Monday is at 4 p.m.