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A memorable night for the connections of Hannelore Hanover
Wednesday, February 28, 2018 - by Ken Weingartner, USTA Media Relations Manager

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Ken Weingartner
Hightstown, NJ --- The emotion in Mickey Burke Sr.’s voice following the announcement of Hannelore Hanover as harness racing’s Horse of the Year was as much a reaction to the moment at hand as it was to moments in the past. Because as Burke soaked in the moment on stage, his thoughts also returned to the previous seven-plus decades and his longtime friend, the late William “Bud” Haas Jr.

Haas was one of the owners of Hannelore Hanover until his passing in January 2016. He was 79.

“We were friends since we were 6 years old and we started showing ponies together,” said Burke Sr., the founder of the Burke Stable now led by his son Ron. “This was extra special, but I just wish Buddy was here to share it with us. He was a great friend.”

USTA/Mark Hall photo
Mickey Burke Sr. (center in gray suit) celebrated Hannelore Hanover's selection as Horse of the Year.

Burke and Haas followed similar career paths. When Burke got involved in automobile dealerships, he recommended Haas be made a general manager. Later, he helped Haas get his own dealership.

“After I sold mine, he sold his,” Burke said. “I said, Buddy, there’s only one thing left. I’m going to train racehorses; you might as well get in that too. He was with me all these years and had a lot of good horses.”

Haas and Burke were both born in the summer of 1936, with Haas being three weeks older.

“For 73 years I heard that I had to respect my elders,” Burke said with a laugh. “We had a lot of fun times. I miss him very much.”

As for Hannelore Hanover, Burke said, “She’s a dream horse. This is special. I’ve had a lot of good horses, but she will always be special.”

* * * * * * * *

Hannelore Hanover also will always be special to caretaker Sarah Murphy, even if the two do not always see eye to eye.

“It’s a crapshoot,” Murphy said with a laugh. “You don’t know what you’re going to get on any given day. You think it’s going to go one way, it’ll go the other.

USTA/Ken Weingartner photo
Sarah Murphy and the 2017 Horse of the Year, Hannelore Hanover.

“We’ve had a lot of good days, though. She’s all right if it’s just me and her. It’s when other people are around. It’s her throne; you should not encroach upon it. That’s just how she is.”

It truly is Hannelore Hanover’s throne now. And the 6-year-old female trotter will return this season to try to defend her title.

“The climb is easier than staying there, that’s for sure,” Murphy said. “When you’re on top they’re all coming after you. Staying there is the hard part.”

Not that getting there was all that easy.

“There were a lot of good mares this year (2017),” Murphy said. “Last year (2016) it was Bee A Magician and her. This year they were coming out of the woodwork. Pasithea (Face) came from Sweden, Emoticon (Hanover) came down out of Canada. There were good mares everywhere.

“At least the boys were chivalrous,” she added with a grin. “Go on sweetheart, go ahead. That worked.”

Hannelore Hanover defeated male rivals on multiple occasions in 2017, including in the eliminations and finals of both the Breeders Crown and Maple Leaf Trot. She also beat the boys in the Allerage Farms Open Trot, where her 1:49.2 mile made her the fastest female trotter in history.

Throughout last season, though, Murphy was focused on helping Hannelore Hanover prepare to win races rather than giving any thought to a Horse of the Year Award. When the moment came Sunday, she was grateful.

“It makes you feel like you did something right,” Murphy said. “We did something special.”

For a recap and video of Sunday’s Dan Patch Awards banquet, click here.

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