Burke On Trotting Filly Rivalry


The race for the Three-Year-Old Trotting Filly of the Year title went right down to the wire, and in a photo finish, Mission Brief edged out rival Wild Honey by a nose at the 2015 O'Brien Awards.

The Three-Year-Old Trotting Filly category was the closest in the 2015 O'Brien Awards voting, with Mission Brief and Wild Honey initially dead-heating with 46 points each. (Two points were awarded for first-place votes and one point for second-place votes). However, Mission Brief was given the nod in the end with more first-place votes, 17-13, to take home the hardware for her ownership group consisting of Burke Racing Stable, Our Horse Cents Stables, J And T Silva Stables and Weaver Bruscemi.

"To be honest, we were questioning whether we could beat her or not," Mission Brief's assistant trainer Mickey Burke Jr. told Trot Insider in a post-awards interview on Saturday (Feb. 13). "With 'Honey' winning the Breeders Crown up here, we thought it could go either way on this one. She put in some great miles up here and had that really going for her. Her whole year was such a dominant year overall that I was hoping, but wasn't positive on that one."

Mission Brief won 10 races in 14 sophomore starts and only finished worse than second once when she made a break in the Breeders Crown. The daughter of Muscle Hill swept the Elegantimage Stakes elimination and final at Mohawk Racetrack during her million-dollar season that also included wins stateside in the Zweig Memorial, Moni Maker, Bluegrass Stakes, Matron (in a 1:50.2 world record), and Continentalvictory. She also won an elimination of the Hambletonian while tackling the colts before finishing second in the final just behind Pinkman.

Meanwhile, the Jimmy Takter-trained Wild Honey had seven wins and seven seconds in 16 starts and banked almost $1.25 million. She was a runner-up in the Elegantimage, but defeated Mission Brief in the Breeders Crown championship at Woodbine Racetrack as well as the Kentucky Futurity at The Red Mile. The Cantab Hall filly also won the Hambletonian Oaks.

Darryl Kaplan, editor of TROT Magazine makes the presentation to Mickey Burke (left).

"She had a great year," said Burke of Mission Brief. "I mean, finishing second to the boys in the Hambletonian, almost winning it, you don't get a chance to go in with a filly like that in your lifetime so that was amazing. And you know, she had her hiccups here and there, but I think she'll be that much stronger this year. I think she's going to be one of the greatest trotting fillies ever probably."

After winning the 2014 Two-Year-Old Trotting Colt of the Year award with Habitat, the Burke Stable earned its second consecutive trophy in that category as well at Saturday's O'Brien Awards with dominant winner Southwind Frank.

The world champion Muscle Hill colt had a near-perfect freshman campaign, winning 11 of his dozen starts and earning over $940,000. His Canadian highlight reel includes victories in the Champlain Stakes and William Wellwood Memorial, with a Breeders Crown victory capping off his debut year.

"His Breeders Crown win [impressed me most]," said Burke. "I just was so happy with him that day. He just was so good and just so dominant. I was just so happy with him."

While he was a division standout throughout the season, Southwind Frank progressed slowly training down early on before finding his best stride. He's added owners Adam and Chris Bowden of Diamond Creek Farm and is expected to give his connections -- the same group that campaigns Mission Brief -- another shot at Hambletonian glory. But that's not too much pressure for North America's leading stable.

"You know what, we've been fortunate enough to get some great horses so we don't really feel it too much," said Burke. "Mission Brief was a little bit more of a thing; the colt not as much. I mean, yeah, you want to see him do well and everything, but I don't think it will be as tough as it was with Mission Brief."