Cumberland extends race meet

June 29, 2021 – by Chris Tully for First Tracks Cumberland

CUMBERLAND, ME – The Maine Harness Racing Commission has approved additional race dates for the extended pari-mutuel meeting at First Tracks Cumberland to include Wednesday, August 4 and Thursday, August 5.  Post time for these two additional cards will be 11 am.

In addition, Cumberland will not be racing on Sunday, July 25, as originally scheduled.  Hollywood at Bangor has picked up that race date.

Today’s (June 29) full card of nine pari-mutuel harness races features a $5,200 NW4000 with fan favorite Southwind Terror going for his fifth consecutive victory in race eight.  Nick Graffam will drive the 11-year-old son of Camluck who has 47 lifetime victories and $357,371 in earnings.  Southwind Terror scores from post five, is trained by Chris Hitchcock and owned by Michaeal Pease. 

Sportnest, coming off of two wins himself, looks to upset the opposition’s win streak in the aforementioned feature.  Leaving from post three, the 5-year-old son of Sportswriter won at Vernon on June 19 in 1:53.2, and  came back to Cumberland for his second win three days later.  Trained by Michael Girouard and owned by Irving Bluestein, he has Walter Case Jr. in the bike.

Live harness racing from Cumberland is presented each Tuesday and Saturday through July 31, post time is 2:30 pm.  For more information go to our website:

Follow us on Facebook at @FirstTracksCumberland.

Bruizn takes throne from Cherry Crown Jewel

June 26, 2021 – by Chris Tully for First Tracks Cumberland (Stephanie Gray photos)

CUMBERLAND, ME – Wagering favorite Cherry Crown Jewel tried valiantly to defend her throne in the Winners Over on Saturday (June 26) at Cumberland, but she could not overtake tempo-setting Bruizn who took home the lion’s share of the $6,500 purse. 

Blasting out from behind the gate, driver Andy Harrington sent Bruizn right to the top from post five, and the big, strappy gated 7-year-old son of Musclini never saw the back of another helmet and won by 2 ¾ lengths in 1:58.1, which was a new seasonal mark.

Trained by Kim Ireland for owners Dennis and Deborah Foss, this is the fourth time this season that Cherry Crown Jewel met Bruizn, with the former winning last week, and the latter victorious on the other three occasions.

Bruizn paid $9.00 to win.  Cherry Crown Jewel (Matt Athearn) finished second, and Little Macabee was third.

Two divisions of the popular Maine Amateur Driving Club (MADC) saw two different drivers add first-time seasonal wins to their resumés.

Eric Bickmore made his first drive of the year a memorable one, leaving from post one in the sixth race, he was content to sit fourth past the half, and let the front-end hustlers tussle on the lead.  With the quick pace being set by Benson Merrill driving Zampara, the three-quarters was in 1:26.2.  Valerie Grondin took her shot with Middle Aged Crazy and poked a head in front at the head of the stretch. 

Arriving to the battle just in time, and having pulled River Runs Deep second over down the backside, Bickmore popped out in mid-stretch and brushed past the fading battlers to win in 1:57.3.

Not only was this the first win of the season for the Sara Gibbs-trained 10-year-old son of Riverboat King, but winning MADC driver Eric Bickmore posted the fastest race time of the series.  Owned by Robert Gibbs, River Runs Deep paid $12.80 to win.  Rose Run Slider (Michael Girouard) got up late to be second, and Middle Aged Crazy (Grondin) held on for third.

MADC $3,800 Group B went to post as race eight with six amateur entrants.  Driver Derek Howes, making his seasonal debut to the Saturday card, utilized a first over trip to capture the event with I’ll Call You Later.

Leaving from post four, and getting away fourth, Howes tipped the 8-year-old son of Dragon Again heading to the half and continued to gain ground and wearing down the pace-setting Putnam’s Storm to win in 2:01.3.  Trained by Jamie Gerard and owned by Strategic Racing Stable, this was I’ll Call You Later’s first win of the season and second victory in the last two years.  He paid $3.80 to win and wend off the favorite.  Putnam’s Storm (Robert Nadeau) finished second, and Hoboken Hanover (Charles “Butch” Eaton) was third.

On hand, as always, was Aimee Nichols of Blue Seal Feeds to make the presentations to the winning connections on behalf of the MADC series sponsoring Blue Seal Feed stores in Windham and North Yarmouth.

The updated MADC leaderboard now carries a 15-point, three-way tie for first place between Butch Eaton, Benson Merrill & Todd Whitney.  Robert Nadeau moves up a notch into fourth place, and Joe Burke rounds out the top five.

The only driver with more than one win on the Saturday card was Matty “Ice” Athearn, who won back-to-back races three and four.  Making his return to the sulky in two races Saturday, following a three year absence was Walter Case Jr, who had two drives on the card and picked up checks in both instances. 

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:

Follow us on Facebook at @FirstTracksCumberland.

Tuesday at the Track Event a Big Hit at Cumberland

June 23, 2021 – by Chris Tully for First Tracks Cumberland (Stephanie Gray photos)

CUMBERLAND, ME – First Tracks Cumberland enjoyed a great turnout for their first of many ‘Tuesday at the Track’ events, where corporate sponsors, colleagues and employees were eager to attend live harness racing, enjoy food and refreshments, and make winners circle presentations to the winning connections.  In addition, the USTA’s Wendy Ross, recently named the Social Media and Publicity Manager, was on hand to conduct interviews on the simulcast programs, as well as meet and greet the attendees.

Nearly one hundred representatives and friends and family from Gorham Savings Bank, HM Payson Financial, Optimum Construction, and Porta & Company Commercial Real Estate took part in the festivities. 

Tuesday’s (June 22) full card of ten pari-mutuel harness races featured a $10,422 Maine Standardbred Breeders Stake for 3-year-old colt and gelding trotters, which was won by Wild Oats and trainer/driver Ivan Davies.  The son of Boy Band maintained his pylon sitting post position and never relinquished control, wiring the field in a swift 2:00.1, a new track record for 3-year-old gelding trotters.  He is owned, and was bred by Michael Andrew.

Wild Oats paid $6.40 to win.  Billy B (Wallace Watson) finished second; Pembroke Regal (Heath Campbell) was third.

An early $9,967 non-betting race featuring 3YO Maine-bred trotting fillies was captured by Emmajean Jellybean, a sophomore daughter of Mister Anson.  Driver Steve Wilson left boldly from post three to control the tempo, and maintained that advantage through two circuits and held off any would-be challengers to win in 2:02.3.  A new lifetime mark for the Charlene Cushing-trained distaff, she is owned by R. DiPompo Jr & Michael Graham (also the breeders) along with Pamela Smith and Jane DePompo.

In the featured overnight race of the day, Southwind Terror has continued to wreak havoc among his class of upper echelon pacers.  Taking his fourth win in a row, the 11-year-old son of Camluck was pressed hard, coming first over into a :56 half, then parked three-wide in a 1:25.1 three-quarter’s to win the $5,200 conditioned pace in 1:55.3.  Driven by Nick Graffam and trained by Christopher Hitchcock, the 47-time winner is owned by Michael Pease. Southwind Terror paid $3.00 to win.  Skyful of Lighters (Dave Ingraham) finished second; Gold Star Spider (Heath Campbell) was third.

Driver Bruce Ranger had three victories on the card, and Nick Graffam had a driving double and conditioner Michael Girouard had a training double.

Graffam Clan Sweep Maine Sired Filly Pace Splits

June 19, 2021 – by Chris Tully for First Tracks Cumberland (Stephanie Gray photos)

CUMBERLAND, ME – Driver Nick Graffam and trainer Mike Graffam teamed up to sweep both Maine Standardbred Breeders Stakes for 3-year-old filly pacers on Saturday (June 19) at Cumberland.

The father and son duo started Justcallmecasey in the opener and the race could not have worked out any handier.  When wagering favorite Tally Two made a costly break behind the gate, Graffam protected his cat bird position with Justcallmecasey and was content to follow in the two hole for both circuits and pounce on the pacesetting Diamond District (Gary Mosher) in the homestretch to win in 2:00.1

Owned by Ben Bill and Will Stable, the sophomore daughter of Deuce Seelster was bred by Kristina Hall.  Breaking her maiden in the process, the filly paid $18.80 to win.  Pembroke Legend finished third.

There was nothing ‘handy’ about the second division, however, as Pembroke Ali (Drew Campbell) apparently crossed over too quickly in front of Jopasamazingrace (McGwire Sowers) setting off a chain reaction of interference breaks.  Nick Graffam driving Schoodic Lady avoided the chaos and finished second behind Pembroke Ali, but was placed first as the latter was placed sixth for interference.

Schoodic Lady is a 3-year-old daughter of Deuce Seelster, trained by Michael Graffam, and was bred and is owned by Ben Bill and Will Stable.  By default, she also broke her maiden today.

The Graffam’s have had these two fillies since they were weanlings, and caretaker Stephanie Gray noted, “They have been professional race horses from the very start.  Always very focused on their jobs.”

The $6,500 Winners Over Trot was captured by Cherry Crown Jewel, giving the mare her third win in five starts for driver Matt “Ice” Athearn and trainer Gretchen Athearn.  The 9-year-old daughter of RC Royalty wired the field in 2:00 and paid $4.60 to win.  Little Macabee (Aaron Hall) finished second, J-S For Justice (David Ingraham) was third.

Newcomer Dalton Lee made his Maine Amateur Driving Club debut a memorable experience, coming from last to first in the final half win with Baywood Shadow in 2:00.2.  Trained and owned by Christopher Dubois, the 8-year-old son of Stand Forever paid $13.40 to win.

Winning Chip (Chris Lefebvre) finished second; Bettorific (Adam Gray) was third.

Dan Lambert, Assistant Manager of the North Yarmouth Blue Seal Feeds location was on hand to make the MADC trophy presentation to the winning amateur connections. 

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:

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:

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:

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:

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:

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.