It would be easy for trainer Ron Burke to be confident as he prepares Sweet Lou for Friday's $250,000 Dan Patch Invitational at Hoosier Park. After all, his 5-year-old pacer brings an eight-race win streak to the event, with an unprecedented stretch of speedy miles to go with it.
But Burke knows Sweet Lou isn't the only horse streaking into the Dan Patch. Dancin Yankee, the last horse to defeat Sweet Lou, also is among the pacers in the nine-horse field. Dancin Yankee, racing out of the stable of trainer Amber Buter, brings a six-race victory streak to the Dan Patch.
It will be the first meeting between the two horses since Dancin Yankee won the Van Rose Memorial Invitational on May 3 at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs. Sweet Lou finished third, but since then has gone undefeated.
"I think Lou is running into another horse that is racing as good as anyone in the country,” Burke said. "I'm actually nervous. I think that horse is super sharp, career sharp, too.
"There are other horses that could win too, but both those horses are on long win streaks. I think that's going to be a great race.”
Sweet Lou has won eight of 11 races this year and earned $791,500 for owners Burke Racing, Weaver Bruscemi LLC, Larry Karr, and Phil Collura. His wins include the Ben Franklin Pace, William R. Haughton Memorial, U.S. Pacing Championship, and Roll With Joe.
His 1:47 victory in the Ben Franklin is the fastest ever on a five-eighths-mile track, breaking the previous mark of 1:47.2 that was shared by Dancin Yankee and Pet Rock.
Sweet Lou has won each of his last five starts in less than 1:48, which is a record. He has been driven during his win streak by Ron Pierce.
For his career, the son of Yankee Cruiser-Sweet Future has won 30 of 66 races and $2.90 million. He was the 2011 Dan Patch Award winner for best 2-year-old male pacer and earned $1 million at age three, but picked up only four wins and $348,638 at four.
"I'm just so happy he's winning,” Burke said. "It's enjoyable to watch him race right now. I've been such a believer all along and for him to do what we thought he could, nothing feels better.”
Burke, who on Saturday moved past Virgil Morgan Jr. to become the winningest trainer in harness racing history, also sends Bettor's Edge to the Dan Patch. The 5-year-old gelding has won six of 19 races this season and earned $421,781. He was second to Sweet Lou in the Franklin and Haughton and fourth in the U.S. Pacing Championship.
Dancin Yankee has won 14 of 21 races this year and $315,140 for owners Baron Racing Stable and Rich Lombardo. The 6-year-old son of Yankee Cruiser-Dancewiththebest won the preferred handicap at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs in each of his last three starts.
The remainder of the field is Thinking Out Loud, Night Pro, Carol's Comet, Heston Blue Chip, State Treasurer and Our Lucky Chip.
"It ended up being a really good field,” Burke said.
Following is the field in post order with drivers, trainers and morning line: 1. Dancin Yankee, Tyler Buter, Amber Buter, 8-1; 2. Thinking Out Loud, John Campbell, Bob McIntosh, 6-1; 3. Night Pro, Peter Wrenn, Dale Decker, 20-1; 4. Carol's Comet, Aaron Merriman, Ron Potter, 15-1; 5. Sweet Lou, Ron Pierce, Ron Burke, 4-5; 6. Heston Blue Chip, Corey Callahan, Linda Toscano, 15-1; 7. Bettor's Edge, Ricky Macomber Jr., Ron Burke, 10-1; 8. State Treasurer, Jody Jamieson, Ian Moore, 4-1; 9. Our Lucky Chip, Trace Tetrick, Jason Miller, 30-1. (HRC)