Day At The Track

Atlanta ready to take on male rivals

12:35 PM 28 Oct 2020 NZDT
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Atlanta, harness racing Harness racing
Atlanta and driver Yannick Gingras
Lisa Photo
Trainer Marcus Melander and Gimpanzee
Mark Hall/USTA photo

Atlanta has done plenty to impress harness racing trainer Ron Burke in the two seasons she has been in his stable, including win eight Grand Circuit finals, set speed records in the U.S. and Canada, and receive a Dan Patch Award.

Yet as she prepares to take on nine male rivals in Saturday's $500,000 Breeders Crown Open Trot at Harrah's Hoosier Park, Burke has never felt better about the 5-year-old mare.

Atlanta heads to the race off a 1:50 win over a "good" surface in the Allerage Farms Open Trot on Oct. 11 at Lexington's Red Mile. Only a half-length loss to Gimpanzee in the Caesars Trotting Classic at Hoosier in September keeps her from a four-race win streak.

"I could not be happier with her, she's the best she's ever been for us," said Burke, who took over the training of Atlanta at the beginning of 2019. "I like getting the week off because she loves to race off multiple weeks off, so she's going to come in sharp for the final. I'm thrilled."

What has made Atlanta even better?

"I think she's matured a little bit more," Burke said. "I've always worried about her weight, and it's really not an issue now. She looks great. And maybe the year, the way her schedule has been, it's really helped. She hasn't raced that much, and I don't think she really wants to race a lot, because when she races she gives everything every step every time."

Atlanta has won five of 10 races this season. In addition to the Allerage, her victories include the Maple Leaf Trot, Dayton Trotting Derby, and Arthur J. Cutler Memorial.

She will attempt to become the fourth mare to win the Breeders Crown Open Trot, joining Hannelore Hanover (2017), Moni Maker (1998) and CR Kay Suzie (1996). Atlanta, the Trotter of the Year in 2018 and Dan Patch Award winner for best older female trotter in 2019, is seeking her first Crown.

Last year, Atlanta finished third in the Open Trot behind Bold Eagle and Six Pack.

Burke leads all active trainers in Breeders Crown hardware with 17 trophies. Jimmy Takter holds the record with 34.

Atlanta, who has won 25 of 49 career races and $2.52 million, will start Saturday from post five with driver Yannick Gingras, a 23-time Breeders Crown winner. The mare is owned by Crawford Farms Racing, Brad Grant, and Howard Taylor.

With the way Atlanta is racing, Burke cannot help but think ahead a bit to 2021.

"I think it points to next year being her best year," Burke said. "I'm excited. Right now, it's all go to race next year again. I think we can do special things next year."

Atlanta is not alone in looking to add her name to the Breeders Crown record book Saturday. Four-year-old stallion Gimpanzee is aiming for his third win in a Crown final. Only three trotters have captured three or more Breeders Crown trophies in history. Female trotter Peace Corps holds the record with four. Grades Singing, another female, won three as did male trotter Mack Lobell.

Gimpanzee, a Dan Patch Award winner at age 2, has won seven of 10 races this year, including the John Cashman Memorial, and 24 of 33 lifetime. He has earned $2.45 million for owners Courant Inc. and S R F Stable.

He enters the Crown final off a 1:52 win last Saturday in an invitational at Hoosier. He starts from post three with Brian Sears in the sulky. Sears has won 32 Crown finals, second most in history behind John Campbell's 48.

Prior to winning the invitational, Gimpanzee was sixth in the Allerage, his only off-the-board finish of the campaign.

"The result in Lexington was a little disappointing, even if I wasn't disappointed in the horse, but the result," trainer Marcus Melander said. "I could feel in the warmups (Saturday) that he was in form. I told Brian that too.

"We were both very excited that he bounced back the way he did. It was a perfect prep race for him. Brian drove him perfectly and he didn't have to chase him hard down the lane, he did it very easily. I couldn't have been happier."

The Open Trot field also includes Fiftydallarbill, who won a Breeders Crown at age 2 in 2017 at Hoosier, as well as Lindy The Great and Majestic Player A, who are among three horses sharing the Hoosier track record of 1:51.1 for a trotter, and millionaire Crystal Fashion.

Harrah's Hoosier Park hosts the four $600,000 Breeders Crown finals for 2-year-olds on Friday. The remaining eight finals, for 3-year-olds and older horses, are Saturday. Racing begins at 6 p.m. (EDT) both nights.

The 2020 Breeders Crown, presented by the Libfeld-Katz Breeding Partnership, is the 37th edition of the $6 million event. Harrah's Hoosier Park will provide a free live high-definition streaming of the races on YouTube.

Following is the field for the $500,000 Breeders Crown Open Trot.

1-Mission Accepted-Chris Page-Ron Burke
2-Majestic Player A-Brett Miller-Walter Haynes Jr.
3-Gimpanzee-Brian Sears-Marcus Melander
4-Reign Of Honor-David Miller-Marcus Melander
5-Atlanta-Yannick Gingras-Ron Burke
6-Lindy The Great-Andy Miller-Julie Miller
7-Soul Strong-Ake Svanstedt-Ake Svanstedt
8-Katkin American-James Yoder-James Yoder
9-Crystal Fashion-Jordan Stratton-Jim Campbell
10-Fiftydallarbill-Trace Tetrick-Luis Quevedo

Fiftydallarbill starts from the second tier.

by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA


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