Rocksapatriot renews rivalry in Top Pace

June 16, 2021 – by Chris Tully for First Tracks Cumberland (Stephanie Gray photos)

CUMBERLAND, ME – The rivalry between Winners Over victor Rocksapatriot and nemesis Airspinder continued at Cumberland on Tuesday (June 15).  Currently, after four rounds of heavyweight action, the score cards are tied at ‘two all.’

The $6,000 Winners Over $10,000 lifetime is the featured overnight in the state of Maine.  The first time these two horses met in the top pace at Cumberland on May 18, Airspinder won with Rocksapatriot just getting beat by a quarter-length for second.  Airspinder took the next week off.

On June 1, these two met again, with this scribe forecasting that Airspinder was “looking for two-in-a-row.”

Perhaps camera shy, adverse to publicity, or simply bad racing luck may have prevented the former from realizing the predicted outcome, providing Rocksapatriot an opportunity to even the score and win decisively by almost three lengths.

Shipping North to Bangor on June 9, outside of the realm of this reporter, Airspinder reclaims his title, with Rocksapatriot finishing third.  Now the tally is two-to-one, for those keeping score at home.

Unintentionally, but yet once again, previous to Tuesday’s bout this prognosticator calls the trainer of Airspinder, Chris Lefebvre, and finds out that now the ownership of the horse have become somewhat ‘publicity adverse.’  This is due in no small part to prophecies made on or about June 1.  But, that didn’t stop this beat writer from advancing the cause, and predicting Airspinder ‘King of the Airspace’ on June 15.

But, Rocksapatriot and driver Dave Ingraham had other ideas.  Collectively, they were not concerned with air traffic control, rush hour congestion or any other form of transportation bottlenecking.  Ingraham pulled the six-year-old son of Rockincam first over into an evenly rated half by pacesetter Jet Aviation (Bruce Ranger).  Airspinder (Drew Campbell) picked up the live cover second over, following Rocksapatriot into a 1:28 (28.3) third-quarter.

As the field rounded the final turn Rocksapatriot stuck a head in front and started to gain some separation from his adversary Airspinder, sprinting home in :28.2 to win by 1 ½ lengths in 1:56.3.  Airspinder continued to chase valiantly, but to no avail, and despite his :28.1 last quarter, the five-year-old son of No Spin Zone had to settle for second best.  Jet Aviation finished third, with betting favorite The Bus A grabbing fourth.

Driver Dave Ingraham noted, “I was looking for Cushing [The Bus A] to give me cover, but I had to move myself.  You have to be careful driving him.  He sees things and sometimes spooks.  He wears a turn-up shadow roll, a murphy blind on the outside, and a cheek piece on the inside.  But once he gets rolling, he’s pretty sharp.”

Not unaware of the inclinations of handicappers to pick against him, Ingraham adds with a laugh, “You just keep writing about Airspinder!”

Trained by Kelly Case for owner/breeder Stephen J Farrell, Rocksapatriot paid $9.60 to win.

Race three witnessed a full-field of eight battling for the $4,800 purse in the NW4000 pace.  Southwind Terror (Nick Graffam) asserted his dominance to make it three-in-a-row at the iconic Southern Maine oval. 

Sent off as the mild 2-1 favorite, the Christopher Hitchcock-trained 11-year-old son of Camluck got away seventh.  Nonetheless regular driver Nick Graffam had the 46-lifetime winner out and rolling at the half, and was forced three-wide going down the backside to engage in a battle with pacesetter January (Matt Athearn) and Rocnrolwilneverdie (Drew Campbell).

As the field turned for home, track announcer Scott Ehrlich exclaimed, “they are coming from everywhere” and Southwind Terror took the lead and fought off any would-be spoilers to win in 1:57.1 by three-quarters of a length.  Miss U Big Mike (Bruce Ranger) jumped up to be second, and Haydenssmoothmove  (Heath Campbell) finished third.

Southwind Terror paid $6.20 to win.

Dave Ingraham, Bruce Ranger and Drew Campbell all had driving doubles on the Tuesday (June 15) card, and in each case they victories were in back-to-back races.  Trainer Elisha Lafreniere had two successive wins as well.

Seasonally, Bruce Ranger still leads all drivers with 23 victories, followed in second by Dan Deslandes (17), with Drew Campbell and Kevin Switzer Jr. tied for third with 12 trips each to the Cumberland winners circle.

Racing returns this Saturday (June 19) with the popular Maine Amateur Driving Club, sponsored by Blue Seal Feeds, and three-year-old filly pacers take center stage in the Maine Standardbred Breeders Stakes.

Live harness racing from Cumberland is presented each Tuesday and Saturday through early August, post time is 2:30 pm.  For more information go to our website: firsttrackscumberland.com

Follow us on Facebook at @FirstTracksCumberland.

Top Pacers set to Fly in Winners Over at Cumberland

June 15, 2021 – by Chris Tully for First Tracks Cumberland (Stephanie Gray photo)

CUMBERLAND, ME – Today’s (June 15) ten-race card at Cumberland features a $6,000 Winners Over Pace, carded as race six.  Chris Lefevre’s Airspinder looks for his second win in a row in the top class, scoring from post six with regular pilot Drew Campbell. 

Airspinder, a five-year-old gelding by No Spin Zone has won half of his races this season, sporting an impressive seven victories in 14 seasonal starts.  That is a big improvement over last year when he had just one win in 24 tries.

“It’s all because of my blacksmith,” noted Chris Lefebvre, the horse’s trainer.  “Without him he wouldn’t even be a horse!”

Plagued with hoof trouble, owners Michelle Lefebvre and Brian Aaskov acquired the horse in early April.

Conditioner Chris Lefebvre went to work on his feet, “pretty much every day.  He has very little hoof.  We have rebuilt his front feet with fiberglass patches.”

Clearly the efforts have paid off, as the horse has not been off the board since.  But the extra attention has not been without sacrifice.

“My owner wanted me to block your calls!” Lefebvre said with laugh.  “The last time you did a story on this horse he got beat.”

But that’s horse racing and that’s what scribes must do…follow a good lead.

A horse that looks to invade Airspinder’s airspace is Jet Aviation, trained by Benson Merrill and driven by top gun Bruce Ranger, he departs from gate three.  Comfortable on the front end, the 6-year-old Badlands Hanover gelding comes off an afterburner win in 1:55.3 at Bangor.

Both aircraft are sure to meet some rush-hour traffic in the form of The Bus A who moves into this express lane route from previous pick-ups in Bangor and Plainridge.  Trainer Heidi Gibbs sends the 7-year-old Art Major stud to Cumberland in the capable hands of driver/co-owner Ron Cushing from post two.

Race three enjoys a full field of eight vying for the $4,800 purse in the NW4000 pace.  Both Southwind Terror (post six, Nick Graffam) and Rocknrolwilneverdie (post seven, Drew Campbell) are coming off of wins in similar company.  Red Dirt Boomer (post 5, Dan Delandes) drops down a notch in class to make this heat well worth a savvy punters attention.  Adding to the fray is Miss U Big Mike (assigned post eight, Bruce Ranger) who paced in 1:52.4 in his last start at Plainridge, and won his previous start at Bangor in 1:55.3 for the current connections.

Live harness racing from Cumberland is presented each Tuesday and Saturday through early August, post time is 2:30 pm.  For more information go to our website: firsttrackscumberland.com

Follow us on Facebook at @FirstTracksCumberland.

Maine purses on the Rise

June 14, 2021 – by Chris Tully for Cumberland & Bangor

CUMBERLAND, ME – First Tracks Cumberland and Hollywood Casino Hotel & Raceway at Bangor have jointly announced a ten percent purse increase for overnight races. 

The significant raise in racing rewards will take effect immediately with the Wednesday draw for Saturday’s (June 19) card at Cumberland, and with the Thursday draw for Sunday’s (June 20) racing at Bangor.

The top Winners Over class at Cumberland will now race for a purse of $6,500, with other classes enjoying an approximate 10% bump in total winnings from their previous purse levels.

Live harness racing from Cumberland is presented each Tuesday and Saturday through early August, post time is 2:30 pm.  For more information go to their website: firsttrackscumberland.com

Standardbreds continue to compete at Hollywood Casino Hotel & Raceway at Bangor every Wednesday (Post Time 3:00 pm) and Sunday (12:15 pm first post) through August 1, with a special July 4th card at 6:30 pm.  For more information go to their website: hollywoodcasinobangor.com

Valerie Grondin grabs first drive back

June 12, 2021 – by Chris Tully for First Tracks Cumberland

CUMBERLAND, ME – With nearly 500 driving wins to her credit, it’s perhaps a stretch to refer to Valerie Grondin as an amateur.  But she has not driven third-party horses professionally, and recorded her last win in 2013 in a Maine Amateur Driving Club (MADC) event. 

Fast forward to Saturday (June 12) at Cumberland, and Grondin expertly handled Gold Star Spider in another $4,200 MADC sprint by putting the pacer right on the engine and never looking back.

Brushing quickly to the front from post three, Grondin dictated fractions of :29.3, 1:01.1, 1:30 and stepped on the accelerator in the final stretch drive to draw off and win by three and a half lengths in 1:59, last quarter in :29.

“It felt great to be in the bike again,” exclaimed Cumberland’s third leading trainer.  Grondin continued, “Winning makes all the long days worth it.  Spider is perfect to drive, he has been with us for four years.”

Gold Star Spider is a seven-year-old stallion by Rock On, trained by Grondin and is owned by Heath Campbell and Gino Martucci.  He paid $7.20 to win.  Wagering favorite Plus One (Joe Burke) finished second.  Kreacher (Benson Merrill) was third.

Grondin and her partner Heath Campbell, together train about 26 horses that are split between the overnight horses at Grondin’s farm in Corinna, and the Maine Stakes horses stabled at Bangor.

Approaching another milestone, Valerie Grondin is just 4 wins shy of 2,000 training wins.  Having earned over $8 million in trainers’ earnings in the last four decades, the Bangor-born conditioner enjoys the racing and camaraderie at the new Cumberland facility.

Quick to share the credit of her success, Grondin points out that all the work gets done “with an excellent crew and involved partners.”  Inspired by her good friend and fellow Maine-based trainer Kelly Case, they bought a horse together for $300 in 1984 and named it I Would, a mare by Frisky Thomas. 

“She went out and won her first five races in a row for Kelly,” Grondin fondly recalls. 

It’s clear that the horse ‘I Would’ turned Valerie Grondin into an ‘I can’ …and so out she went, traveling boldly into the world of Maine harness racing, never looking back.

While Grondin was pleased with the new seasonal mark of 1:59 for Gold Star Spider, she is not ready to rest on her laurels.  “I am just getting back started.  I have put this off too long.  My goal is to get to win number 500!”

Currently sitting on 494 driving victories, Grondin just needs six more to hit 500.  Stay tuned.

The other MADC split was captured by Three Day Forecast and active amateur driver Todd Whitney in 2:00.3.

Following a photo finish, favorite Three Day Forecast held off a late charge by Stonebridge Grand (Joe Burke) to win the $4,200 event by a head.  Flooded with fans for the Blue Seal Feeds winners circle presentation, trainer Ryan Berry held the 10-year-old son of Three Olives for the 36th win of his career.

Berry and Whitney share ownership of Three Day Forecast, who paid $5.40 to win.

Continuing her dedication to the MADC and Cumberland, and returning to make the presentations to the winning amateur connections was Aimee Nichols, Blue Seal and Kent feeds territory sales manager for Maine and the Canadian Maritimes.  Nichols provided ‘swag bucket’ trophies of stable supplies on behalf of the Windham and North Yarmouth Blue Seal Feed stores to both amateur race winning connections.

After three weeks and four divisions, Todd Whitney leads the point standings in the Maine Amateur Driving Club, followed closely by Benson Merrill in second, Charles “Butch” Eaton in third and Joe Burke hits the board in fourth.

In overnight racing news, Andrew Harrington and Dan Delandes both enjoyed driving doubles on the Saturday afternoon card.  In the $6,000 Winners Over Trot, Bruizin (Harrington) returned to Cumberland to capture the event for a second time this season, winning by a half-length over Cherry Crown Jewel (Matt Athearn) in 1:59.3.  Caulfield (Mike Stevenson) finished third.

The strapping seven-year-old son of Musclini is trained by Kim Ireland and owned by Dennis and Deb Foss.  He paid a whopping $32.20 to win.

Live harness racing from Cumberland is presented each Tuesday and Saturday through early August, post time is 2:30 pm.  For more information go to our website: firsttrackscumberland.com

Corey’s Call Me Maverick cops Maine Sires at Cumberland

June 12, 2021 – by Chris Tully for First Tracks Cumberland

CUMBERLAND, ME – The popular Saturday afternoon card at Cumberland carried the seasonal debut of the Maine Standardbred Breeders Stakes (MSDS) hosting three divisions of 3-year-old colt and gelding pacers.

Sent off as the 1-5 favorite in the third and final division, the Gordon Corey-trained Call Me Maverick wasted little time taking command of the field.  Leaving swiftly from post five, driver Mike Stevenson sent the sophomore son of Western Maverick right to the top going into the tight first turn at the fairgrounds.

On top the entire mile, it wasn’t until the final stretch drive that Call Me Maverick had any anxious moments.  Following a :28.4 third quarter, Driver Kevin Switzer Jr moved American Maverick off the pylons to challenge the leader, getting to within a head of the ultimate 1:59.3 victor in the final strides. 

“He did his job.  Like all owners and trainers, perhaps we would have liked to see a more formidable performance, perhaps a little more impressive,” stated Gordon Corey, the colt’s conditioner.  “But, ultimately we took home the Lion’s share of the porridge for the day.  So we are thankful for the blessings that we do have.”

Owned and bred by Upland Farm, last season Call Me Maverick had things pretty much his own way, winning 8 of 10 starts and earning $61,774 at age two.  In fact, it seems that in Maine Sired events, if you want to beat a Western Maverick, you will need a Western Maverick.

His dominance in the program is evident as half of the 3-year-old starters are offspring of the World Champion son of Western Hanover.  In fact, in Saturday’s second and third divisions, Western Maverick colts and geldings earned first, second and third money. 

When asked about locking bridles with some of the other foes in the division, Corey opined, “There are a few boys in there that should be reckoned with.  It won’t, by any stretch, be an easy season.  You know, sometimes the individual fights and the year-long battles will result in more than one wounded soldier.”

Call Me Western paid $2.40 to win, with no show wagering allowed.  In other MSDS action, Edelman won the first division, also in 1:59.3, for driver, breeder and co-owner Ron Cushing (with Kevin Sywyk) and trainer Heidi Gibbs.  The second division was captured by Whatawinwillie, also a son of Western Maverick, in 1:59.4.  He was owned, trained and bred by Marc Tardif and driven by Kevin Switzer Jr.  The ‘glamour boys’ division meets again in eleven days at Bangor on Wed., June 23.

Gordon Corey Keen for Maine Sires at Cumberland

June 11, 2021 – Feature story and photos by Chris Tully for First Tracks Cumberland

CUMBERLAND, ME – “The much anticipated, highly celebrated diamond of the racing season, the Maine Standardbred Breeders Stakes (MSBS), starts its exciting schedule Saturday (June 12) afternoon at Cumberland!”

This was the Facebook message we received by the valorous vanguard of the Cumberland Fairgrounds, Mr. Gordon Corey, following Wednesday’s draw for post positions, which includes three $10,000 MSBS divisions of 3-year-old pacing colts and geldings.

Corey added “Be There!” as an exclamation point to the communiqué, cleverly channeling his inner Roger Huston. 

Gordon Corey has been racing harness horses a long time…yet the excitement of young horses never gets old for the 78-year-old Boston-born, Maine icon.

Perhaps not as well-known on the Grand Circuit as in Maine and North Carolina, annually, Gordon Corey’s Institute of Equine Erudition quietly boasts a student enrollment of around thirty head, or so, or “however many the big barn at Pinehurst can hold,” notes Corey’s partner and assistant trainer Alison Hynes.

But once all those NY, NJ, PA and DE bred babies find their way back north from Pinehurst to their northeast-based owners and local sire stakes trainers, Corey always settles back down at Cumberland with a couple of Maine breds.

Well-known around the fairs and admired for his astute horsemanship, Corey can regularly be found hanging around the barn area, long after the work day is done.  When he is not drinking coffee and reminiscing about the good old days with his friend and former employer Donnie Richards, he is studying the next day’s program to see how the other Maine breds are racing.

“This is what I love, developing and racing young horses.”  Corey added with a chuckle, “This is what gets me out of bed every morning, along with a few aches and pains.”

Often seen singing a lengthy, but pleasant tune while jogging around the iconic half-mile oval, Corey has been participating in the Maine Sire Stakes program since its inception in 1972.  According to their website, the ‘Maine Sire Stakes racing series was created to encourage the breeding and raising of Maine Standardbred horses and to help preserve Maine’s rural economy and open farmland.’  Corey has championed that cause every step of the way.

While Corey was first granted a USTA license in 1966, he has been fitting bridles to racehorses long before the registry kept full training records.  Having earned over $2 million as a trainer, a search on pathway indicates Corey also has over 600 driving wins to his credit.  Just nine years ago at age 69 he had eight wins in 28 starts…all in Maine.

Saturday, conditioner Corey turns the lines over to Mike Stevenson with his home-bred Western Maverick colt named Call Me Maverick.  An eight-time winner in the 2YO MSBS last season earning $61,774, he is freshened up and won both his qualifiers at Cumberland to prep for his 3YO season.

Not one to get overly confident about one of his pupils, Corey calmly pronounces, “He is a nice little horse.  I think he’ll do okay.”

As an added bonus on the stakes-filled card, Cumberland hosts two divisions of the popular Maine Amateur Drivers Club (MADC) races.  Carded as races six and nine, both events carry a purse of $4,200.

Race six finds seven competitive entrants, none of which that have won a race, in at least their last two starts.  Race nine is highlighted by previous MADC winner Hoboken Hanover and his owner-trainer-driver Charles “Butch” Eaton, looking to take home the Blue Seal Feeds trophy once again.  A 70-time winner, the 14-year-old son of Cam’s Card Shark continues to add to his $425,384 lifetime earnings.

Back again to make the presentations to the winning amateur connections is Aimee Nichols, Blue Seal and Kent feeds territory sales manager for Maine and the Canadian Maritimes.  Nichols will bestow ‘swag bucket’ trophies of stable supplies on behalf of the Windham and North Yarmouth Blue Seal Feed stores.

With eleven races on the card, the overnight feature is the fashionable $6,000 Winners Over Trot, carded as race ten.  Cherry Crown Jewel (post 2, Matty “Ice” Athearn) comes off a win in a junior class to lock bridles with Caulfield (post 6, Mike Stevenson), a three-time medalist in this event at both Cumberland and Bangor in his last four starts.

Southwind Terror one tick shy off Track Record

June 8, 2021 – by Chris Tully for First Tracks Cumberland (Stephanie Gray photos)

CUMBERLAND, ME – Driver Nick Graffam sent the rangy Southwind Terror away from the starting car like he was being chased by a zombie apocalypse.  Leaving from post five in the $4,800 feature pace, the 11-year-old son of Camluck never gave his assailants a second chance as he went coast to coast in 1:54.4, which was just one fifth of a second off the Cumberland track record for Older Gelding Pacers. 

Trained by Christopher Hitchcock for owner Michael Pease, this was Southwind Terror’s third victory of the season, second at Cumberland, and 45th of his career.  The win puts him over $350,000 lifetime.

January A (Matty “Ice” Athearn) was content to sit in the catbird seat for the entire mile, and finished second.  Nets of Passion (David Ingraham) got up in the final strides to finish third.

Southwind Terror paid $3.40 to win, in what was the first sub-1:55 mile of the track’s inaugural extended pari-mutuel season.

The front end held up very well in today’s harness racing action, as five of eight races were won by horses that were at or near the front end by the half.  Yet, only three wagering favorites prevailed, giving punters incentive to stay off the chalk.

In the finale, it was a tight finish with three horses separated by just a half-length at the wire.  When the dust settled it was Mickey Blu who came from off the pace from post eight to eliminate her co-conspirators and grab the loot.

Driven by Drew Campbell, the 12-year-old McArdle mare got away sixth, and was back ten lengths off the leaders as the field went down the backstretch to the quarter pole.  Pulling third-over going to the half, and now back just five lengths moving forward, Campbell revved up the 45-time winner and started to wear down the other mares in the $4,200 Fillies and Mares NW3000 pace.  Pecking them off one-by-one as the field rounded the final turn Mickey Blu had shortened the gap to pay dirt considerably and got up in the final strides to win in 1:57.2.

Only a half-length separated the winner from Media Queen N (Ranger), who finished second, despite being parked most of the circuit, and show dough darling We’re Gonna Rock (Matt Athearn) who was also not forwardly placed during the early going from post seven.

Trained and owned by Kimberly Vafiades, Mickey Blu paid $11.80 to win.

Bruce Ranger and Drew Campbell both had driving doubles on the day’s card, which was an exceptionally warm 91 degrees at post time.

Racing from Cumberland is presented every Tuesday and Saturday, through early August, first post is 2:30 pm (EDT).  For more information go to our website: firsttrackscumberland.com Follow us on Facebook at @FirstTracksCumberland

Led Schneppelin Remains Aloft at Cumberland

June 5, 2021 – by Chris Tully for First Tracks Cumberland (Stephanie Gray photos)

CUMBERLAND, ME – Michael McGee made a bold move and put his own Led Schneppelin on the front end of the Maine Amateur Drivers Club (MADC) race Saturday (June 5) at Cumberland.   The move turned out to be the right one, and despite having several competitors try to puncture his lead, the 10-year-old son of Memphis Flash held off all would-be conquerors to capture the $4,200 NW2000 event in 1:59.3.

First it was 83-year-old Robert Nadeau who tried to stick Putnams Storm’s nose in front while some confusion reigned in the back of the pack.  Pulling first over going to the half, the 5-year-old son of A Rocknroll Dance was turned away by a determined McGee and Led Schnepelin.

After Nadeau gets stung and hung past the 5/8, Benson Merrill and Kreacher approached the leader going to the ¾ pole.  Kreacher and Led Schneppelin fought valiantly all the way to the wire, but the latter prevailed by a head to take home the lion’s share of the purse and the bragging rights for this week’s amateur event.

His first win of the season, but 35th of his career, Led Schneppelin is approaching $315,000 in lifetime earnings for owners Michael McGee and Scott McGee.  Trained by Aaron Hall, he paid $10.40 to win.

In the winner’s circle, Michael McGee’s family and friends were greeted by Melanie Locke who presented a ‘swag bucket’ trophy of stable supplies on behalf of the Windham and North Yarmouth Blue Seal Feed stores.

The featured trot of the day was the $4,800 NW4000, captured by Cherry Crown Jewel and driver Matt “Ice” Athearn in 1:59.  Trained by Gretchen Athearn for owner William Phipps, the 9-year-old daughter of RC Royalty took advantage of a perfect two-hole trip that provided for an open length victory following a costly break in the final turn by pacesetter Jimmy Dean.  Cherry Crown Jewel paid $7.20 to win.

Top gun pilot Bruce Ranger enjoyed two wins on the program, as did trainer Marc Tardif.  Aaron Hall got both a catch driving win and a training win in the MADC on Saturday’s card.

Live harness racing from Cumberland is presented each Tuesday and Saturday, through early August.  Post time is 2:30 pm (EDT).  For more information go to our website: firsttrackscumberland.com

Follow us on Facebook at @FirstTracksCumberland.

Ingraham gives Rocksapatriot a perfect steer at Cumberland

June 2, 2021 – by Chris Tully for First Tracks Cumberland (Stephanie Gray photos)

CUMBERLAND, ME – Veteran driver Dave Ingraham needed a little luck and a little racing room to avenge his previous loss in the $6,000 Winners Over top pacing class at Cumberland. 

On May 18, in his first start back since shipping north from Pompano, Rocksapatriot finished second to Tuesday’s (June 1) betting favorite Airspinder.  But, after the latter got caught behind a tiring Twomacsoneshadow going to the three-quarters (1:27.2/:28) and forced three-wide, Ingraham found racing room and ducked off the pylons in the final turn and brushed the 6-year-old son of Rockincam home in 1:57.

Pacesetter Bet On Joe (Mike Stevenson) held on for second, Airspinder (Drew Campbell) was third.

Rocksapatriot picked up his 16th win of his career, which has accounted for $109,198 in earnings.  This was his 3rd victory of the season, the fastest of which was a 1:53 romp at the Pomp.

The result of a father and son collaboration, Rocksapatriot was bred by Stephen Farrell Jr of Friendship, Maine and is now owned by Stephen Farrell, Ocala, Florida.  He is trained by Kelly Case, and paid $6.40 to win.

59-year-old Ingraham has 7,662 victories in a driving career that is entering its fifth decade, and is closing in on $30 million in winnings.

The swiftest orbit of the day was fueled by Prince Galaxy and Matt Athearn.  The 5-year-old son of Real Desire stopped the clock in 1:56.3 to pick up his first win of the season.  Trained by Gretchen Athearn, he is owned by Joan Harmon and Michael Foley.  Prince Galaxy paid a princely sum of $39.80 to win.

Both Dan Deslandes and Drew Campbell had driving doubles on the card, and they sit at second and fifth in the driver’s standings, respectively.  Bruce Ranger still leads the pack with 17 trips to the Cumberland winners circle.

Racing from Cumberland is presented LIVE each Tuesday and Saturday, through July 31, with a NEW post time of 2:30 pm.  For more information go to our website: firsttrackscumberland.com

Follow us on Facebook at @FirstTracksCumberland.

Lefebvre’s Airspinder looks to repeat in top pace at Cumberland

May 31, 2021 – by Chris Tully for First Tracks Cumberland (Stephanie Gray photo)

CUMBERLAND, ME – When Cumberland conditioner Chris Lefebvre bought Airspinder a few months ago, he was not sure what kind of horse he was going to end up with.

“He had showed some speed, but we knew that he had bad feet.  So it was a little bit of a gamble,” exclaimed the 42-year-old third generation horseman.  Airspinder, a 5-year-old son of Delaware sire No Spin Zone (by The Panderosa), has won four of his five last starts for owners Michelle Lefebvre and Brian Aaskov, and earned over $10,000 in that 5-week span. 

“My Blacksmith sees him once a week and my grooms go through buckets of poultice and hoof dressing!”

But quarter cracks aside, the horse seems to have developed an admirable trait…he likes to pass other horses.  “He’s not sure what to do when he gets by them, but he’s learning,” noted Lefebvre.  “If there is a rabbit out there he likes to chase them down.”

Stabled at the Cumberland Fairgrounds, Lefebvre (pronounced le-FAVE) has seven horses in his barn and recognizes the unique qualities of his current stable star.

“He is a nice horse and it’s been a lot of fun for me and my wife to watch him race,” noted Lefebvre.  “He sort of handicaps himself early because of his lack of early speed.”  Clearly, Airspinder makes up for that issue with his powerful closing ability.  This became evident to the Lefebvre’s when he won his second start for them at Bangor on April 28.

“He had the two hole, got away 6th and was back over eighteen lengths by the quarter pole.  But once he was given racing room he charged home, parked the mile and won in 1:56, with last quarter in :28.1,” Lefebvre recalls.

While horse ownership is fun for Michelle Lefebvre, at her day job she works as a nurse recruiter for Maine Medical in Portland and helps place RNs throughout the state’s hospitals.  

“It’s always exciting when they win, but Airspinder has been out of the ordinary,” detailed Michelle Lefebvre.  “We don’t always have horses that keep winning…so this has been an extra thrill.”

He was assigned post five in Tuesday’s $6,000 Winners Over $10,000 handicap, programmed as the seventh race, which is the start of the pick four.  The only horse outside of him is Sarah’s Lilly (3-1), a mare with $12,000L5 and two wins in her last two ‘winners over fillies and mares’ starts at Cumberland.

Airspinder will also get pressure from Bet On Joe (PP 4, M/L 9-2), a 6-year-old son of Bettor’s Delight that has been racing in the Patriot Series at Plainridge.  Trained by Bob Marston and driven by Mike Stevenson, the 11-time lifetime winner shows race times in 1:52.3 & 1:52.4 in his last three starts.

Leading Cumberland trainer Karl Butterfield sends Twomacsoneshadow (Kevin Switzer Jr, PP 3, M/L 4-1) into the mix, having battled with Airspinder in his last two starts and looks to even the score in his favor.

The 5-2 favorite on the morning line, Airspinder gets the services of W. Drew Campbell, a top-five driver at both Cumberland and Bangor, and is currently sixth at Plainridge.  The Nova Scotia-native has 5,357 lifetime wins with over $16 million in earnings.  This year Drew Campbell has a UDR of .291 with 31 seasonal victories.

Tuesday’s card has ten races programmed with $1 exactas and 50 cent trifectas available in every race.