Joe Burges celebrates birthday with Highway victory

Jason Collett drives Markwell Dreamer to victory in the 1100m Class Two TAB Highway Handicap at Royal Randwick on Saturday. Inset. Joseph Burges. Photos: Bradley Photos.

Birthdays don’t come much better!

Especially when you train your first winner at Royal Randwick with the first horse you bought along with your first starter at Australian racing’s longest standing venue.
And with a $4000 bargain buy to boot.

Little wonder experienced horseman Joe Burges’ 36th birthday today had an extra special buzz after putting his name up in lights on the biggest stage yesterday.

Only 14 months after saddling his first starter in a race, Burges landed the TAB Highway Handicap (1100m) with lightly-raced gelding Markwell Dreamer ($19).

Given a brilliant ride by Jason Collett, albeit from the inside barrier, Markwell Dreamer overwhelmed Canberra’s Fangela ($6) and Goulburn-trained Extravagent Lad ($5.50) to notch his third victory from nine starts.

‘It was bloody exciting,” Burges said this morning, understandably on a high when speaking with NSW Country & Picnic Racing and explaining the reasoning behind he and his mate Jayden Dorney purchasing the now four-year-old online in June, 2019 for only $4000.

“I broke in a filly by Dream Ahead for Tuncurry trainer Terry Evans, and really liked her,” he said.

“I followed the sire’s progeny as a result, and was aware he was getting his share of winners.

“When I saw this horse advertised for auction in Sydney by the same stallion, I knew he had been purchased as a weanling in Melbourne for $8000, and felt he was the horse for us.

“He was a colt when I broke him in, and subsequently we gelded him.

“Markwell Dreamer has been a slow maturer, and hence we have taken our time with him as he has always shown ability.

“He didn’t start racing until last April.”

Burges also explained how his debut Randwick winner got his name.

“My wife Emma and I have 120 acres at Markwell, near Bulahdelah, and Jayden lives not far away from us.

“And we’re dreamers, so that’s how we called him Markwell Dreamer.”

Burges has broken in and trained campdrafters and performance horses, and is also an equine dentist, but has long held a passion to train thoroughbreds.

Born at Eugowra in Central Western NSW and schooled at Orange, Burges cut his teeth working on various stations and met his wife (who hails from Bulahdelah), whilst based at Scone.

“I worked with a lot of good horsemen, and was confident in my own ability to train,” he said.

“I guess I wasn’t ballsy enough to make the move earlier until a couple of years ago when I thought bugger it, I’m going to have a go.”

Burges might be considered a rookie trainer in terms of having started horses for little more than a year, but he showed yesterday he has what it takes to win races.

Markwell Dreamer had not raced since taking a Class 1 Handicap (1106m) on October 19, but the talented horseman got him ready to go to town and score first-up.

“My goal is to keep the horses happy,” he said. “I’ve got 15 here at present, including six of my own and some pre-trainers and breakers.

“They are all stabled on our property, and we have an arena where I can work them.

“I take them to Taree racecourse to gallop on a Tuesday morning when they are racing on the following Saturday, and also go to Hawks Nest Beach (about 40 minutes away) to work them in a straight line on the soft sand at low tide as I do some dentistry work in that area.”

Burges prepared Markwell Dreamer for the Randwick assignment by giving him a quiet trial (fifth to Terry Evans’ Mid North Coast Country Championships hope Par Avion) over 1000m at the end of Taree race meeting on January 11.

“I was very happy with him,” he said. “Ash Morgan had him under a good hold throughout, and he pulled up well.

“I knew he was ready to go to town first-up.”

Markwell Dreamer was Evans’ seventh overall winner, and only his second city runner; his first being Barry’s Lane when seventh to So Say You in another TAB Highway (1800m) at Rosehill Gardens on December 4.

Provided Markwell Dreamer continues to do well, Burges is keen to head back to town on Saturday week to have another crack at a TAB Highway; this time a Class 3 Handicap over 1200m.

“It should be a nice race for him, and I feel he will manage up to at least 1400m,” he said.