Tharps, Burke Sweep Oak Grove Opens

The team of driver Devon Tharps and trainer Ron Burke snagged victories in the pair of $40,000 Open Paces at Oak Grove Racing, Gaming & Hotel on Monday (June 10). 

In the Open Pace, Tharps powered from off the speed with Rocks Shining Star to grab a closing-stride win in 1:51.1. 

Getting away sixth through a :27 first quarter, Tharps bided his time as He’zzz A Wise Sky (driven by Kyle Wilfong) forged forward to the lead from Robert Again (Lewayne Miller) with Western Era (Cordarius Stewart) settling into third. He’zzz A Wise Sky then had no time to breathe past a :55.1 half as Odds On Blockchain (Atlee Bender), who abandoned his leave attempt at the start, got rolling again with a first-over push to the backside. 

Odds On Blockchain and He’zzz A Wise Sky dueled through a third-quarter sprint to click past the third station in 1:22.4. But as the two stayed locked in battle spinning for home, Robert Again had a seam to swing from the pocket to the center of the track while Tharps got rolling with Rocks Shining Star. Robert Again darted to the lead in midstretch but Rocks Shining Star overhauled him with ease in the final yards to post a half-length win at the beam. He’zzz A Wise Sky held third from Western Era in fourth. 

A 5-year-old gelding by Rockin Image, Rocks Shining Star has now won 15 races from 70 starts and earned $231,820 for owners Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi and Phil Collura. He paid $10.16 to win. 

Earlier in the card, Tharps persisted through a first-over grind with Southwind Bella to grab another closing-stride win in the $40,000 Fillies & Mares Open Pace. 

Tharps landed in fifth out of the second tier with Southwind Bella as Marloe Hanover (Marvin Luna) worked forward to the lead after a :27 first quarter. Once positions settled on the front, Tharps sent Southwind Bella off the pegs and after Marloe Hanover as she maintained her speed through a :55.4 half. 

Southwind Bella continued to gain up the backside and hooked to match strides with Marloe Hanover through three-quarters in 1:24. The two moved as one through the final turn and stayed in a stalemate coming home. Marloe Hanover edged back to the front by cutting the corner but Southwind Bella made one final lunge in the closing strides to put a head in front at the end of a 1:52.1 mile. Rock It Out (Lewayne Miller) gave chase in third off a ground-saving trip and Yankee B Something (Joey Putnam) rallied for fourth. 

A 4-year-old mare by Huntsville, Southwind Bella has now won 11 races from 33 starts and earned $308,069 for owners Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi, Bridgette Jablonsky and Lombardo / Green Racing. She paid $13.54 to win. 

Ron Burke totalled three winners on the 12-race card. Aside from his sweep of the features, he and Tharps also teamed with Tip Top Cat to win in the third race in 1:50.4 and become just the third horse this meet to win out of post 10. He paid $5.92 to win in the speed mission.

Live racing resumes at Oak Grove on Tuesday (June 11) at 3 p.m. (CDT) and features a pair of carryovers — a $420.29 carryover in the Early Pick 4 (starting in Race 3) and a $324.10 carryover in the Late Pick 5 (starting in Race 6). Free program pages for every race day, courtesy of TrackMaster, are available on the Oak Grove Racing website (

Rocks Shining Star with a happy Devon Tharps winning the $40,000 Open Pace