September 25, 2021 – by Chris Tully, for First Tracks Cumberland
CUMBERLAND, ME – The 149th Cumberland (ME) Fair kicks off Sunday (September 26) with a full card of Standardbred harness racing featuring two divisions of the Maine Standardbred Breeders Stakes (MSBS) for 3-year-old pacing fillies, as well as a host of late closers for both gaits.
Many of Maine’s rural fairs are known for their big Pumpkins and delicious Whoopie Pies, however the Cumberland fair was first held in 1868 with harness racing as the “Maine” attraction. It remains one of the biggest annual agricultural events in the southern part of the Pine Tree state.
First Tracks Cumberland Race secretary Marc Reynolds was pleased with the strong support that the local horsemen and women provided during the busy fair season.
“It’s been a long Spring/Summer racing season in the state of Maine, beginning in May at First Tracks Cumberland, and now through eight weeks for state-wide fair racing. The local horse people were eager to come back home to race for Fair week,” Reynolds said.
“Due to the robust interest, we are pleased to add two $7,500 Free For All events to the Fair schedule, as well as a number of Maine Amateur Driving Club races for the Sunday (Oct. 3) finale.”
Trainers are reminded to continue to check the condition sheets and utilize the USTA’s online entry system for racing at the Cumberland Fair.
The opener assembles some of the top 3-year-old pacing fillies in the Maine-sired program, pitting Justcallmecasey (post 3, Aaron Hall) against Tally Two (post 4, Mark Athearn) in the first $15,710 division of the Maine Standardbred Breeders Stakes.
The former is pegged at 2-1 and is coming off of a two-race win streak for trainer Michael Graffam, with Aaron Hall picking up the catch drive behind the Ben Bill & Will-owned daughter of Deuce Seelster who has earned $34,246 this season. The latter is also by sire Deuce Seelster, and has been installed as the 5-2 second choice for trainer Gretchen Athearn, and has earned $29,045 for owner Bill Phipps with three victories this year.
The second $15,711 MSBS split is headed by point leader Pembroke Ali who has finished a consistent 1-2 in all of her last 9 starts with $37,580 in seasonal earnings. Listed at 8-5 from post 5, the daughter of Western Maverick will be driven by Heath Campbell for trainer Valerie Grondin and owner Bill Varney.
Schoodic Lady will look to play the role of spoiler from post 4 with regular driver Aaron Hall. As the 3-1 second choice, the daughter of Deuce Seelster has never been worse than third in her last three starts, including a win at Union, with seasonal earnings of $28,012. Trained by Mike Graffam, she is owned by Ben Bill & Will Stable.
Several late closing events hold their first leg during the opener, including the $6,000 Casco Bay Ford Trot (race 8) with a $12,000 final slated for next Sunday (Oct. 3). In addition, there are two divisions (races 3 & 5) of the $5,000 Portland Regency pacing series, sporting a $10,000 final, as well as the $4,000 Pine Ridge Acres pacing series (race 7) that boasts an $8,000 final, again on final day of the fair meet, Sunday (Oct. 3).
With Plainridge also racing on Sunday (Sept. 26), some of the Cumberland regulars are absent, giving the following reinsmen five or more drives on the card: Heath Campbell, Walter Case Jr., Dan Deslandes, Aaron Hall and Andy Harrington.
Local horse women Donna Fenderson and Stephanie Larkin have worked tirelessly to ensure that every race during the entire eight day fair meet has a sponsor, with the winning connections receiving either a blanket, embroidered jacket, or a halter/lead shank combo during the winners circle presentations. Stephanie Gray continues to provide exciting race photos and fun-filled winners circle images as a service to the horse owners and trainers, and on behalf of First Tracks Cumberland.
Cumberland is the next to last Maine-bred legs before the rich MSBS finals at Bangor on Saturday (Oct. 16), listed as $80,000e for the sophomores and $60,000e for the freshmen. In addition, if entries permit there will be several $25,000e MSBS consolation races on Wednesday (Oct. 20).
First Tracks Cumberland has been tapped to manage and facilitate the Fair meet on behalf of the Cumberland Farmers Club. Drivers and Trainers will automatically be paid their occupational percentages through the First Tracks paymaster system, just as they had been during the Spring/Summer extended pari-mutuel meeting.
Racing resumes at First Tracks Cumberland for our winter meeting, beginning November 3rd and racing through December 31, 2021. Post time 11:00 a.m.
For more information go to our website: firsttrackscumberland.com
Follow us on Facebook at @FirstTracksCumberland.