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.