One race after Pure Country won the inaugural Miss Pennsylvania, Ron Burke trainees finished 1-2-3 in the inaugural Pennsylvania Classic won by Check Six at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono.
– PHHA / Pocono
Ron Burke trainees finished 1-2-3 in the inaugural $561,500 Pennsylvania Classic final for state-sired three-year-old pacing colts and geldings Saturday night at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, with Check Six going a big mile on the front end to reduce his mark a tick to 1:50.3. In the companion filly event, the $313,800 Miss Pennsylvania Final, Pure Country bounced back from her first loss in the previous week’s elimination race, going the first-over route and matching the 1:50.3 clocking of Check Six.
Check Six was three-wide a good part of the first turn. When The Catamount Kid backed off from between horses, Check Six was sent to the front by driver Yannick Gingras to go around stablemate Big Top Hanover, with the first quarter of :27.2 not too taxing despite the extra real estate. Check Six got a further breather when the half was tripped in :56.1.
The price of pacing went up exponentially down the backstretch when another Burke trainee, Check Six’s fellow Classic elimination winner JK Will Power, advanced to give a stern first-over challenge. The three-quarter marker was tripped in 1:23.1, and then despite going into a stretch headwind the battling duo still stormed home in :27.2, with Check Six holding off JK Will Power (12-1) by a neck, with Big Top Hanover another one-and-a-quarter lengths back. The Catamount Kid held for fourth, with Lyons Snyder (a slight favorite over the winner with both sent off at 2.10-1) unable to capitalize on second-over position and settling for the last check.
Burke took home $488,850 of the rich purse in the Classic, while Check Six became the second-largest money-winner of the year by boosting his 2016 bankroll to $301,250. The son of Somebeachsomewhere out of Southwind Vanna increased his career bankroll for Burke Racing Stables LLC, Weaver Bruscemi LLC, William Switala and James Martin to $416,139.
Gingras, who drove both elim winners for Burke, picked Check Six for his Classic mount, “but the choice was closer than I would have thought earlier. JK Will Power really showed me a lot last week, and he was big again tonight.” But Check Six came up biggest of all at the finish and took in the glory of winning the first Pennsylvania Classic.
Pure Country, last year’s champion two-year-old filly who suffered her first career loss in a Miss Pennsylvania elimination last Saturday in her seasonal debut, looked like a filly who could rank with the greats when she overcame a hard first-over trip to win the Miss PA final in the same time as Check Six. It was a new lifetime mark for the homebred daughter of Somebeachsomewhere—Western Montana owned by Diamond Creek Racing of Wellsville, PA and trained by Jimmy Takter.
Pure Country settled midpack early as Call Me Queen Be went a stinging :25.2 first quarter, then yielded to 4-5 favorite Darlinonthebeach (Pure Country was the 2-1 second choice, the first time she had gone off higher than 3-5 in her career). Darlinonthebeach went on to the half in :53.3, with driver Brett Miller having Pure Country in gear first-over at that point and advancing the length of the backstretch to be right in contention at the 1:21.3 three-quarter pole.
Pure Country just kept on advancing the turn, gaining the lead past the curve’s midpoint, and continued on strongly through the lane, holding off the late rush of second-over I Said Diamonds by one-and-a-quarter lengths, with Call Me Queen Be, Newborn Sassy, and I Said Please getting the minor awards in that order; the favored pacesetter Darlinonthebeach tired and finished seventh.
Speaking of her Miss Pennsylvania elim loss, Takter noted that “she had been a little sick and I had lost two weeks” of preparation for her 2016 debut. The “real” Pure Country showed up at Pocono Saturday, and the smiles on the faces of Takter and owner Adam Bowden of the Diamond Creek operation were big indeed.