Karl Burke took out a training licence in 1990 and saddled his first winner, Temporale, in a handicap hurdle at Towcester in October that year. He achieved his first major success with Daring Destiny in the Ayr Gold Cup in 1994 and, less than two years later, his first Group winner with the same horse in the Phoenix Sprint Stakes at Leopardstown.
In 1998, Burke moved to High Havens Stable in Newmarket and, in 1999, saddled 50 winners on the Flat for first time. The following year he bought his current yard, Spigot Lodge, in Middleham, North Yorkshire.
Burke saddled his first Group 1 winner, Lord Shanakil, in the Prix Jean Prat at Chantilly in July, 2009. Less than a month later, he was “warned off” – that is, banned from entering premises, or contacting individuals, licensed by the Jockey Club – for twelve months for supplying “inside” information to Miles Rodgers, a high-profile owner and gambler who was already a disqualified person.
Consequently, his father-in-law, Alan Jarvis, took over the licence at Spigot Lodge. On completion of his ban, Burke opted to delay his return to the training ranks, saying, “I've got a few options myself, but one of the factors that has led me to decide not to reapply for my licence is that the current season is half-over now.”
Instead his wife, Elaine, whose original application for a training licence had been rejected by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) the previous November, on the grounds that Burke was still serving his punishment, took over the yard, which operated in her name until 2013. Burke said at the time, “Elaine is fully qualified and now that the ban has been served I should be able to help her out.”
On his return, Burke enjoyed further Group 1 successes with Odeliz in the Prix Jean Romanet at Deauville and the Premio Lydia Tessio at Campanelle in 2015, Quiet Reflection in the Commonwealth Cup at Ascot and the Sprint Cup at Haydock in 2016. Quiet Reflection was also named Cartier Sprinter of the Year, beating 2016 off competition from the likes of Mecca's Angel, Limato, and the Tin Man
More recently, Burke also saddled Unfortunately in the Prix Morny at Deauville and Laurens in the Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket in 2017. Interviewed in March, 2018, Burke said of the latter, who is entered in the 1,000 Guineas in May, “Laurens has wintered really well and couldn’t look any better. I am very happy with her.”