Each week on #HallOfFameThursday, Horse Network recognizes members of the Show Jumping Hall of Fame with an inductee’s plaque, historical photos and, on the first Thursday of every month, an article written by a Show Jumping Hall of Famer. This week, we pay tribute to “Bobby” Burke, Show Jumping Hall of Fame Class of 2001.
Robert J. Burke is a classic horseman in every sense of the word.
It has been said that no one has a better eye for horses than Bobby Burke. Burke, a native of Cambridge, MA, learned to ride from two greats of the sport: Danny Shea who put Bobby on his first jumper, Little Squire, and Mickey Walsh who was enshrined in the Show Jumping Hall of Fame in 1995.
In the 1940s, Burke excelled in the hunter ring, gaining countless wins and championships. In 1950, he made his debut in the show jumper ring with Fitzrada in Leesburg, VA. Burke and Fitzrada finished their maiden event with a championship, which was soon followed by other major victories.
Burke became a familiar sight in the winner’s circle aboard such legendary jumpers as Black Velvet, Grey Velvet, Golden Chance and Saxon Wood. Burke also claimed top honors in numerous Jumper Stakes on Defense, Safari Joe, Royal Knight and Bell Hop. In 1957, Burke swept the Jumper Championships at the Pennsylvania National Horse Show, the National Horse Show in Madison Square Garden and the Chicago Stockyards. He dominated the Royal Winter Fair Jumper Stake in Toronto, placing first aboard Black Velvet, second on Bell Hop, third with Saxon Wood and fifth on Grey Velvet.
In 1967, Burke was the trainer and rider of Act I at the Bonus Point Stake at Fairfield, CT. Act I captured top honors in the Stake and Burke was named leading rider. Act I went on in 1967 to win the Grandprix of Cleveland and then the American Gold Cup in 1970.
Burke also selected and trained Blue Plum, a mount later purchased by Bertram Firestone who in tum placed the talented horse with the United States Equestrian Team.
As a rider, Burke’s trademark was his marvelous touch on the reins. His hands were impeccable, and young horses in particular responded to them magnificently.
In addition to his show jumping success, Burke amassed more than fifty hunter championships at Devon, Harrisburg, Washington, Madison Square Garden and the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto.
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