July 25, 2021 – Story and photos by Chris Tully, for First Tracks Cumberland
CUMBERLAND, ME – Joe Burke made all the right moves with his own Stonebridge Grand to pick-up the victory and the bragging rights in the $7,500 Maine Amateur Driving Club (MADC) final at Cumberland on Saturday, July 24.
Scoring from post five, the 43-year-old construction manager got away from the starting gate into third position. Favorite Led Schneppelin (post 4, Mike McGee) assumed command, posting a :27.1 first quarter. Noticing opportunity following a slower pace over the back half, Burke pulled the 6-year-old son of Camluck three-wide down the backside heading to the three quarters and overtook the leaders.
Burke kept Stonebridge Grand moving down the stretch amid a flurry of late closers, maintaining a neck advantage at the wire, tripping the timer in 1:59.2. Rose Run Slider brushed quickly down the lane to be second for driver Derek Howes. Wagering favorite Led Schneppelin hung on for third.
Trained by Bob Marston, Stonebridge Grand paid $17.00 to win.
In the winner’s circle presentation Burke noted, “This has been a great season for amateur racing in Maine and we are grateful for the support and opportunities to race that First Tracks Cumberland has provided us.”
Founded in 2002 by Buddy Burke, the Maine Amateur Driving Club has competed around the Maine commercial tracks and pari-mutuel fair circuit for the last two decades, and is also coordinated by Buddy’s son Joe Burke.
During the post parade for the MADC final, regular outrider Sherry Cushing allowed her trusty steed Leo to be “catch ridden” by one of Cumberland’s leading drivers Drew Campbell. As the guest parade marshal trotted in front of the stands, the crowd cheered and Drew exchanged barbs with many of his fans and followers.
Each year the club selects a number of groups and organizations to race for. At the end of the meet, they donate funds from their accrued drivers’ fees. All told, the drivers raised and will personally contribute over $4,000 to the various charities, with more funds to be distributed during the winter meet.
This year the MADC will donate to: the Family of Ashley Brown, Eddie Davis Jr., Pacing for a Cure, Travis Mills Foundation, Homeless Animal Rescue Team of Maine, Maine State Society for the Protection of Animals, and the Standardbred Retirement Foundation.
In the $4,000 MADC consolation, the race was eerily reminiscent of several marquee events this season, as the horse that crossed the finish line first was disqualified for interference, with the judges declaring the second place finisher the official winner.
Three Day Forecast, driven by Alex Richardson, interfered with Winning Chip (Chris Lefebvre) going into the first turn and was taken down. As a result, driver Adam Gray, who was back just a head at the wire, was granted the victory with his own Bettoriffic.
Owned, trained and driven by Adam Gray, the classy 12-year-old son of Bettor’s Delight was a recent acquisition by the Gray’s, whose wife Stephanie is also the track photographer.
Bettoriffic paid a whopping $71.80 to win, and was credited with a winning time of 1:58.1.
River Runs Deep (Eric Bickmore) was placed second; Gold Star Spider (Valerie Grondin) assumed third.
Coming back to the winner’s circle after the inquiry was settled, Gray stated, “It’s great to win with your own horse, we are real happy with him. He’s been a good earner and this was a fun day to get the win.”
All MADC winners received a ‘swag bucket’ trophy of stable supplies on behalf of the Windham and North Yarmouth Blue Seal Feed stores, presented by territory sales manager Aimee Nichols. In addition, several special gifts were provided to the final winner, compliments of the Maine Harness Horsemen’s Association.
Live harness racing from Cumberland continues next Wednesday (July 28) and Saturday (July 31), regular post time is 2:30 pm, with two additional dates added Wed. & Thurs., Aug. 4 & 5 with 11 am posts. For more information go to our website: firsttrackscumberland.com
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