September 27, 2021 – by Chris Tully, for First Tracks Cumberland

CUMBERLAND, ME – Trainer Valerie Grondin won both $15,710 Maine Standardbred Breeders Stakes (MSBS) on opening day of the 149th Cumberland (ME) Fair on Sunday (September 26) for 3-year-old pacing fillies.

The opener was captured by Pembroke Junebug who got up by a nose in the final strides to clip 1-5 favorite Justcallmecasey in 1:58.4.  Driven by David Ingraham, the daughter of Western Maverick is also owned and was bred by Grondin.  Pembroke Junebug paid $31.60 to win.

Grondin came right back to grab the second $15,711 MSBS split with series point leader Pembroke Ali in 1:59.1.  Driven by Heath Campbell, the daughter of Western Maverick is owned by Bill Varney, was bred by Lynn-Marie Plouffe, and paid $3.20 to win.

Fan-favorite Southwind Terror returned to his winning ways at his favorite track.  The 11-year-old son of Camluck won the fastest race of the day, stopping the timer in 1:57.2 for driver Aaron Hall on behalf of owner/trainer Stanley Bubier Jr.  Southwind Terror went on a tear during the Spring/Summer meet at Cumberland, winning five-in-a-row during the month of June.  He paid $3.40 to win.

Aaron Hall picks up win # 300.

Aaron Hall jumped up again and won the finale, earning the 300th victory of his career.  The 28-year-old reinsman was born in Augusta, Maine and has been driving since 2010, but has picked up the pace to over 400 drives per year since 2018.  Hall, the son of trainer/driver Ryan Hall, also eclipsed $1 million earlier this season.

Hall noted that it took some time to get where he is today, and was especially grateful to reach that milestone, “I’ve been very fortunate over the last couple of years that some great trainers have given me opportunities to drive.  I appreciate it more than I can express, especially in Maine where the driving colony is so deep.  I’m hoping to keep building on this year’s success and establish myself in a group of so many great drivers we have here.”

Winter Asher-Stalbaum, the 18-year-old son of Larry “The Bomber” Stalbaum, picked up his tenth victory of his rookie driving year.  Competing on the Maine fair circuit, many of the horses Winter has been driving are trained by Winter’s older sister Riley, which has given the “Baby Bomber” a very respectable 0.370 UDRS.

It’s no surprise that the next generation of the Asher-Stalbaum clan is successful, given the strong work ethic and early harness racing upbringing that the family employs in their everyday activities.

Monday’s (Sept. 27) card features two divisions of the MSBS for 3-year-old trotters.  The $15,972 first race has another Valerie Grondin-trained favorite, Pembroke Regal who leads all sophomore male trotters in the point standings.  The son of Pembroke Slugger is owned and was bred by Bill Varney and scores from post five for Gary Mosher (5-2) who picks up the catch drive.

Wild Oats is second in the points and gets trainer/driver Ivan Davies (3-1) from post two.  A son of Boy Band, he was bred and is owned by Mike Andrew.

The fillies trot into race three for $15,967, and they are led by Emmajean Jellybean (post 5, 5-2) who is the point leaders for the 3-year-old distaffs.  Driven by Steve Wilson for trainer Sherry Cushing, the daughter of Mister Anson has never been off the board in her last 10 starts.

Valerie Grondin sends out Pembroke Secret (Gary Mosher, 2-1, post 4) who is coming off a win in her last start, defeating the aforementioned ‘Jelly Bean.’

There are eight races on the Monday card with the first post slated for 1:30 pm.  The Cumberland Fair continues through next Sunday (Oct. 3).   Trainers are reminded to continue to check the condition sheets and utilize the USTA’s online entry system for racing at the Cumberland Fair.

Saturday’s (Oct. 2) card is highlighted by announcer Bill Ellis’ Maine Family Feud, which potentially pits two members of a local harness racing fraternity against one another for fun and bragging rights.  But the driving is serious business, as the licensed drivers will be drawn by lot in the race office, along with the post positions, and the special events carry an increased purse of $5,000 each. 

The scheduled drivers’ families include: Mark & Matt Athearn, Mike & Nick Graffam, Aaron & Ryan Hall, David Ingraham & Kelly Case, Bo & McGwire Sowers, Ron & Charlene Cushing, Drew & Heath Campbell, Gary & Joey Mosher, and John Nason & Andy Harrington.

Each participant will be introduced along with a meet-and-greet, and the winning drivers will toss special Maine Family Feud T-shirts to the crowd.

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.

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