Sweet Lou, the best two-year-old pacer in harness racing last year, hasn’t been able to match that performance in the marquee events of 2012 thus far. He finished fourth as the favourite in the North America Cup final, fifth as the big threat in the final of last week’s Meadowlands Pace.
But that doesn’t mean trainer Ron Burke would characterize his performance as disappointing.
“I might be disappointed with the results, “but I’m not disappointed with the horse,” Burke said. “In the Meadowlands Pace, he was actually ninth when they turned for home. I especially liked the last 100 yards, he was pacing as fast as anybody. That leads me to believe he’s rounding into form. I was very happy with that.
“He’s been a little bit unlucky, and he might not be as sharp as he was. But my horses usually get better as the year goes on.”
Sweet Lou will have a chance to atone big time by winning the $600,000 Delvin Miller Adios, the signature race of his home track, The Meadows Racetrack and Casino. The son of Yankee Cruiser - Sweet Future has drawn post 4 in Saturday’s first elimination, which goes as race four. The first four in each elim advance to the final, which is set for the following Saturday afternoon.
It won’t be easy for the hometown hopeful, as that first elim has come up extraordinarily tough. Leaving outside Sweet Lou will be Hurrikane Kingcole (post seven), who captured the Meadowlands Pace Consolation in a sizzling 1:47.3; Meadowlands Pace winner A Rocknroll Dance (post eight), and North America Cup champ Thinking Out Loud (post nine). Sweet Lou is the 3-1 morning line choice.
Burke has been the leading trainer in the sport for the last several years, and his stable won the Adios orchids in 2007 with May June Character; in fact, the stable enjoyed a one-two-three sweep that year. But Burke was assistant to his father Mickey for that triumph; if Sweet Lou can pull off an Adios victory for owners Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi LLC, Larry Karr and Phillip Collura, it would be the first with Ron Burke’s name on the trainer line.
He’ll have the services of Dave Palone, harness racing’s all-time winningest driver, who, as Burke, isn’t down on Sweet Lou.
“I’m even higher on him now than I was before the Meadowlands Pace,” Palone said. “He was in a position where he couldn’t win, and he still raced beautifully.”
Burke has another shot at the orchids with Breakin The Law, who goes from post five in the second elim (race six). The Artiscape - Arls Troublemaker gelding won eight of his first 10 starts this year, including a sweep of the Spring Survivor Series at the Meadowlands.
“He’s been super-consistent this year, but he doesn’t like half-mile tracks,” Burke said. “If he catches the right position, he could make the final.”
But the team of Sweet Lou, Burke, Palone and the home court edge should be formidable.
“This crop of three-year-olds may be the best in recent memory,” Burke said. “I think we’ll see a lot of ‘take your turn.’ We hope Sweet Lou will come along, and maybe we can race him a little more aggressively.”
John Campbell will drive Thinking Out Loud For the first time on Saturday. (New Image Media)
Also of note are a few driver changes for the Adios, most notably, John Campbell will be up behind NA Cup winner Thinking Out Loud for the first time. Campbell is also steering trainer Bob McIntosh's Dapper Dude in the second division.
Thinking Out Loud's regular driver Randy Waples will be at Mohawk that evening where he'll pilot Class Of O Nine and I Found My Beach for McIntosh in the CBC finals. He's also slated to drive Tall Cotton for Tom Durand in the rich Maple Leaf Trot final.
Other driving changes in the Adios elims see Ron Pierce on One Through Ten and Dan Dube on Bettors Edge.
First post for the Adios eliminations card, which also features a pair of $300,000 (est.) Pennsylvania Sires Stakes (three-year-old filly pace, two-year-old colt and gelding pace), is 6:55 p.m.