Talk about getting off on the wrong hoof. It is absolutely mind blowing Ron Burke felt Southwind Frank, his latest world champion and a $100,000 yearling purchase, was never going to make a quality racehorse.
“Until he got down to 2:30 in his training we thought he was a total throw out,” said North America’s leading conditioner of harness horses. “We thought we had no choice but to sell him and to get rid of him right away. He was just a disaster. But when he hit that time it was like something changed. He just continued to get better and better.”
Purchased by Burke, Weaver Bruscemi, Our Horse Cents Stables and J&T Silva Stables at the 2014 Lexington Select Sale, Southwind Frank is a son of Muscle Hill and the Cantab Hall mare Flawless Lindy, a half-sister to Classical Annie (Andover Hall) who just captured the Old Oaken Buckette at the Delaware County Fairgrounds on September 23, and earned just under $100,000 during her career. He is her first foal.
“We definitely liked this horse because he is a Muscle Hill, period.” Burke, a Canonsburg, PA resident, said. “We always want that in the pedigree when it comes to buying trotting yearlings. That is the thing we definitely focus on and look for.”
After his less than stellar beginning, Southwind Frank continued to blossom. The colt broke his maiden at first asking on July 3 at the Meadowlands in a $20,000 New Jersey Sire Stake contest. In his second race, the following week, Southwind Frank made the only miscue of his young career as he broke stride when he was second at the top of the stretch. Since that instance of misfortune, the colt has simply bested all his rivals and captured eight consecutive races.
His victories include the $100,000 New Jersey Sire Stakes final, the $349,850 Peter Haughton Memorial, the $88,050 Champlain Stakes, the $283,480 William Wellwood Memorial and the $52,200 International Stallion Stake, where he established his world record of 1:52.2 with the greatest of ease. In fact, no horse in his division has seemed to mount a challenge to Southwind Frank. Lagerfield, the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes champion, came home nearly a full second behind him in that performance at The Red Mile on Thursday, October 8.
The colt has yet to have another horse within 1 1/4 lengths of him in any of his victories. It is as if he is on cruise control and simply possesses another gear. He was just shy of Father Patrick’s stakes record of 1:54.1 in the Champlain and set a stakes record of 1:53.4 in the New Jersey Sire Stakes final. His resume is a sparkling 10-9-0-0, his bankroll consists of $476,419 and he remains unchallenged as well as untested.
“The minute I saw the first quarter in 27 2/5, I knew it was going to make my job a lot easier,” said Yannick Gingras, in the winners’ circle after the race. “He had plenty left down the stretch. I just wanted to keep his mind on business. He definitely could have gone faster.”
“I think he is every bit as good as Father Patrick and all the rest of those great horses,” he continued. “He has done nothing wrong. He’s made one mistake at the Meadowlands early on in his career; it was just him being green. “We’ve been looking to race him from the back, but when you’re 1-9 sometimes everyone else is waiting for you,” Gingras said. “Today, nobody was waiting for us, and it was a good thing. I wanted to race him from the back and trot home. He sure did.”
Burke’s assessment of the horse is similar to his regular pilot’s. The horse that once could do nothing right, now can do no wrong.
“He is just so strong right now,” Burke said. “He is perfectly gaited, his mind is excellent and all he does is improve. He’s also very easy to drive. He has won his races so easily, so to say that it is a surprise is an understatement because he really was like a catastrophe starting out. Now it seems like the sky is the limit with him.”
Southwind Frank’s next engagement will be north of the border for the $600,000 Breeders Crown final. Although he could have accepted a bye for the eliminations on October 16, Burke opted to race the colt and he delivered with a smashing six length victory in 1:55.2. He will leave the gate on Saturday, October 24, from post position five at Woodbine Racetrack and will be the prohibitive favorite off a prep race that appeared to be a paid training mile.
“He was good here at Mohawk about a month ago [in the $373,000 William Wellwood Memorial], but Ronnie [Burke] thought he was getting a little tired,” Gingras said in the winners’ circle after the race. “He gave him a few weeks off and freshened him up before the second week of Lexington. He was vicious there last week, and he was just as good here tonight. He completely wrapped up; he could not have done this any easier.”
Burke is confident Southwind Frank will not only perform well in the Breeders’ Crown, but possesses all the tools to have an outstanding career.
“Right now he is the perfect horse,” he said. “You cannot say that very often, but he really is. He is on such an upward trajectory and it is with every race. We just need to stay out of his way and let him do his job. I think he will really set himself apart from the rest in the Breeders Crown because he has been pretty dominant all year without any of the other colts really stepping up. This race should put him clearly on top of the division and could establish him as a very special horse.”
After his facile triumph in the William Wellwood Memorial, one of Southwind Frank’s owners had his eye on a prize other than a Breeders Crown trophy and hints this colt could be a superstar in the making.
“It makes me think next year. Hambo. We’re going to be in it,” Jerry Silva said. “We tried this year with Mission Brief against the boys. We didn’t have a boy, but now we got a real boy, Southwind Frank.”