July 18, 2021 – by Chris Tully, for First Tracks Cumberland (Stephanie Gray photos)
CUMBERLAND, ME – Leading Cumberland conditioner Benson Merrill showed that he is quite handy in the drivers seat as the 31-year-old reinsman swept both of the final legs in the Maine Amateur Driving Club (MADC) series on Saturday (July 17).
Sponsored by Blue Seal Feeds, ten drivers took a shot at the MADC title, and for Merrill it took him to his eleventh and twelfth attempts of the season to find the winners circle as a driver. Certainly worth the wait as Merrill won the $3,800 sixth race ‘B’ group with his own Worth Watching in 1:58.1.
Jumping out quickly from post two, Merrill sent the 11-year-old son of Western Terror out to take command of the field, setting smooth fractions and holding off a late-closing Baywood Shadow (Dalton Lee) to prevail by a two-length margin. I Saw Red (Eric Bickmore) finished third.
Owned by Michael Wilson, Worth Watching paid $10.20 to win the 45th victory of his lifetime.
But Benson Merrill was not finished yet. In the $4,800 tenth race, MADC group ‘A’ Merrill piloted Velocity Sub Z like a seasoned veteran.
Leaving from post two, Merrill pushed hard to get the lead, only to be challenged on the outside by Plus One (Joe Burke) in a brutal :27.2 first quarter. Heading to the 3/8 pole, Merrill smartly surrendered the lead to the parked favorite Plus One and series point leader Joe Burke. But perhaps the damage was already done. By the third panel, Merrill sensed a tiring leader and pulled the pocket. Velocity Sub Z looked Plus One right in the eye and went right on by to grab the lead at the head of the stretch and win in 1:58.2.
Three Day Forecast (Alex Richardson) finished second; Led Schneppelin (Mike McGee) was third.
Owned and trained by Judson Merrill, Velocity Sub Z paid $13.60 to win. Driver Benson Merrill was surrounded by four generations of family members in the winners circle as the connections accepted the ‘swag bucket’ trophy of stable supplies, presented by Melanie Locke on behalf of the Windham and North Yarmouth Blue Seal Feed stores.
With the victories, Merrill jumped from fourth to first place in the MADC standings. On Saturday, July 24 the Maine Amateur Driving Club will compete for a $7,500 final, as well as make donations to a variety of local and national benefit organizations from funds accrued from driver’s fees of past MADC series.
The $6,500 Winners Over Trot, went to Bruizn (post four, Andy Harrington) who redeemed himself following an uncharacteristic break from post seven in his previous start. The towering seven-year-old son of Musclini is owned by Dennis and Deborah Foss and was trained by Kim Ireland.
Bruizn paid $16.80 to win by a nose over Northern Skyway (post 6, Drew Campbell).
In Maine Standardbred Breeders Stakes action trainer Valerie Grondin had a one-two punch in her stable entry, that took the win and place pools with Pembroke Legacy (HN 1, Heath Campbell) and Pembroke Maddi (HD 1A, Drew Campbell) to grab the lion’s share of the $10,147 purse. Both of the 2-year-old filly pacers are owned by Bill Varney, as they made their first of what will be a lengthy season of half-mile track racing around the Maine fairs.
Live harness racing from Cumberland is presented each Tuesday and Saturday through 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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