Trainer Ron Burke scored a pair of big victories in the 3-year-old pacing colt division this past weekend, first with All Bets Off in last Friday night's $400,000 Carl Milstein Memorial at Northfield Park and then with JK Endofanera's score two days later in a $54,072 Geers division at Tioga Downs.
After scoring wins in a pair of major races just one month before the Sept. 18 Little Brown Jug there would be talk of capturing the pacing classic, but in Burke's case it is the exact opposite as both colts are not eligible. As the winner of the $1 million North America Cup in June at Mohawk, JK Endofanera could be supplemented to the Jug at a cost of $45,000, but Burke said it will not happen.
"The owners have no thought of going so there's no shot,” Burke told harnessracing.com at Northfield Park on Friday, shortly before he watched All Bets Off capture the Milstein. "He's a big horse and I don't know if he'd even get around there (the half-mile track at Delaware, Ohio), and you'd have to pay $45,000 for the chance to not get around. I don't think he's going.”
The Little Brown Jug conditions provide that if not eligible, the winner of the North America Cup, Meadowlands Pace, Cane Pace and Messenger could be supplemented.
Driver Matt Kakaley, who has been behind All Bets Off in his last nine starts this year, including his wins in the Milstein and Rooney at Yonkers Raceway, expressed disappointment that his colt was not eligible to the Jug.
"I wish he was (Jug eligible) as he gets around a half great,” said Kakaley following the Milstein win. "He's a good-sized horse but for a half he's small. He won the Rooney at Yonkers this year and he did that pretty handily.”
With JK Endofanera and All Bets Off on the sidelines, that leaves Burke with Max Hempt final runner-up At Press Time and recent purchase Limelight Beach as Jug possibilities. Limelight Beach finished second on Friday night at Northfield Park in the $100,000 Milstein Memorial consolation. It was the third start for the son of Somebeachsomewhere since entering Burke's barn following the purchase by Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi LLC and M1 Stable. Former owner Wingfield Brothers retained an interest.
"That was one of the reasons we bought (Limelight Beach), to give us a horse that can be competitive there,” Burke said of his Jug chances.