Drew Campbell gets victory No. 5,500

November 27, 2021 – by Chris Tully, for First Tracks Cumberland (Stephanie Gray photos)

CUMBERLAND, ME – Nova Scotia-born harness driver Drew Campbell learned from his father Winston “Soupie” Campbell a long time ago, ‘If you are going to do this, do it right.”

Hanging around Drew Campbell, and his younger brother Heath, it’s obvious that they live and breathe harness racing.  “We were horse-crazy as kids and learned everything we know, including shoeing our own horses, from my father,” he said. “I never wanted to do anything else and it’s really great to be able to get up every morning and love what you are doing.” noted the 54-year-old top New England reinsman.

Drew Campbell began driving horses in 1989 and has earned $17.6 million in purse earnings.  Saturday (Nov. 27) at Cumberland he picked up his win number 5,500, just like it was another day at the office.  He started the day by winning the third race with Lindas In Heaven, paying $4.80.  Then Campbell came right back to win the fifth race with Surreal Sergeant, wire-to-wire, and paid $6.20 while reaching the milestone.

“I know a lot of people that win way more races than me,” noted Winston ‘Drew’ Campbell who shares his first name with his late-father.  “But 5,500 wins is a lot of work.  Hats off to the guys that got more.”

A third generation horseman, his dad ‘Soupie’ Campbell picked up 1,784 wins in an era when catch driving was not the norm, but the exception.  Drew Campbell’s first win came aboard a horse owned by his dad named Mountain North at Exhibition Park in Saint John, New Brunswick.  At the time, it was the aspiring reinsman’s seventh career drive.

“Driving horses is a lot of sacrifice and a lot of traveling,” Campbell stated.  “I also had a lot of help from the trainers and owners.  They really put all this together!”

Campbell has enjoyed many decades of driving success, often with 300+ victory seasons and over a million in purse earnings in four separate years.  “I have a blast racing no matter what happens,” he said. “Of course I like making money, but some days things just don’t go your way or the horse simply doesn’t have it. Then you go out there the next day and do it all over again.”

Although just four years apart in age, Drew’s younger brother Heath is hot on his brother’s heels in the driving category, with 5,414 wins and $17.2 million in earnings.  “Heath is very successful in New England racing,” Campbell pointed out.  “Now he’s at Gilcrest in Florida with a large stable of colts.  I look forward to joining him soon to be his wing man.”

For Drew Campbell, every day in the horse business is a victory.

Bruce Ranger has a slight lead over Drew Campbell in the Cumberland drivers’ standings, 54-53.  Other driving doubles on the Saturday (Nov. 27) card were enjoyed by Bruce Ranger and Nick Graffam.

Bertolini Scores first win at Cumberland

November 26, 2021 – by Chris Tully, for First Tracks Cumberland (Stephanie Gray photos)

CUMBERLAND, ME – For the 83rd time in his fledgling career, Jason Bertolini lined up behind the starting gate in a pari-mutuel purse start.  Since the year 2017 the 24-year-old has been knocking on the door, picking up five seconds and fourteen third place finishes along way.  On ‘Black’ Friday (Nov. 26) Bertolini finally rang the cash register, finding his virtual ‘stairway to heaven’ with his own Led Schneppelin in 1:59.

Bertolini went right to work in the Aaron and Ryan Hall Stable after graduating Gardiner (ME) High School in 2015.  Training and rubbing horses and learning as much as he could, he has been driving around the Maine fairs for the last five years.  This summer he asked the owners if he could buy Led Schneppelin.  They said, “sure, as long as YOU drive him.”

So off Bertolini went, into the Maine Amateur Driving Club (MADC), also known as the ‘The Greatest Sideshow in Maine Harness Racing, in charge of his own destiny.  Competing in the $4,000 ‘Group B’, perhaps his boss, driver/trainer Aaron Hall said it best in a congratulatory Facebook post, “You’ll never forget this one.  You deserve this moment more than anyone I know.”

Scoring from post five, US-born but Finnish-bred Bertolini was in no mood to let anyone go today.  He left alertly and made the top just past the eighth pole with the 10-year-old son of Memphis Flash.  From there Led Schneppelin and Jason Bertolini got every call, widening their margin on the field at every well-rated stanza.  By the head of the stretch they were on top by three and never had an anxious moment.  

Bertolini was quick to credit both of his mentors, Aaron Hall, and his mother Kirsi Bertolini, for much of his harness racing education.  “They both gave me plenty of opportunity to drive and helped give me the experience I needed,” noted the aspiring reinsman.  “Yes, today was a great day.  But like Kevin Switzer Jr. told me, ‘One day you’re a hero, one day you’re a zero.’ So I try to stay humble.”

The oldest of five siblings, Bertolini has been going to the barn since he was an infant.  His mother Kirsi is very proud of her son’s strong work ethic and his horsemanship skills.  The elder Bertolini stated, “Everyone in Maine wants him to warm up their horses because he gets along with anything.”

Jason echoed those sentiments, declaring “I believe you should work hard and dream big…and let the horses do the talking.”

Led Schneppelin belted out $11.00 to win.  Wagering favorite Colorful Speech (post 1, Zach Vickerson) finished second, American Fighter (4, Alex Richardson) was third.

Benson Merrill won the $4,500 MADC ‘A’ with Jet Aviation, paying $7.40 to win.  The third split, $3,200 MADC ‘C’ was captured by Ryan Hall with his own Librado Hanover, kicking back a whopping $19.40 to his backers.  The Maine Amateur Driving Club is sponsored by Blue Seal Feeds.

Racing resumes on Saturday (Nov. 27) with a full ten-race card, followed immediately by Cumberland’s first of five Sunday (Nov. 28) cards.  Post time remains 11:00 a.m.

Our Winter Festival extended pari-mutuel meeting continues with live harness racing several days each week through December 31, 2021.

83-Year-Old Nadeau scores with Putnams Storm

November 18, 2021 – by Chris Tully, for First Tracks Cumberland (Stephanie Gray photo)

CUMBERLAND, ME – Gray-haired Putnams Storm, a 12-year-old gelding by Force Of Life, started his harness racing journey in the province of Nova Scotia, in the Canadian Maritimes.  His owner, Bob Nadeau, an 83-year-old sales rep from Maine began his quest for trotting and pacing glory a decade before the United States Trotting Association began keeping detailed driver/trainer records in 1966.

Together, they have been having the time of their respective lives, racing and sometimes winning at Cumberland. 

“I had been racing the horse from behind lately, but have had some bad trips and gotten locked in several weeks in a row,” stated Nadeau, an independent contractor who has been selling pre-cast concrete for the last fifty years.

“Yesterday (Nov. 17) I decided, ‘That’s enough, I’m pulling early!’”

Steely-eyed Nadeau tipped the ashen Putnams Storm just past the quarter and was parked to the ¾ pole in 1:28.4, and had effectively worked his way to the lead.

“I have always loved racing horses in Maine,” noted the active octogenarian.  “But I also knew that I didn’t have enough talent to make a living driving race horses.”

Nadeau acquired Putnams Storm in June of this season, and was the fourth owner of the horse just this year.  Alas, the horse has grown on Nadeau.  “He is one of the best horses I have ever owned.  I have had Maine stakes horses since the 1970s, but this horse is special. He has a home for life.”

As game a horse as one could want, Putnams Storm has taken a race record every year for the past eleven racing seasons.  Earning his wings at Truro, NS and Charlottetown, PEI, since then the horse has changed hands and zip codes no less than a dozen times, racing all over the Northeast and Midwest.  His swiftest victory came at the Red Mile in Lexington where he scored in 1:50.4 at age five, making him perhaps the fastest gray pacer ever bred in Nova Scotia.

By the Life Sign stallion Force Of Life p,3,1:52 ($243,534), Putnams Storm is out of the Cambest mare Reading Terminal.  Lifetime he has amassed $171,113 in earnings with 35 victories to his credit.  Winning confidently by a length and a half in 2:00.1 on Wednesday (Nov. 17), the score may have caught everyone except his owner by surprise as he paid $63.20 to win and $89.80 across the board.  Prince Of Art (post 4, Dakota Jackson) finished second, Three New Dreams (post 5, Drew Campbell) was third.

Normally, no one helps Nadeau with the horse work, he is very self-sufficient.  Not only is he the trainer, driver, caretaker and shipper, but he also shoes the horse himself.

Nadeau recalled, “I did have help on Wednesday, my son, a school psychologist got off of work early and came to watch him race.  We both got our picture taken, which is special to me because he is definitely the nicest animal that I have ever had.”

In other news, Drew Campbell has tied perennial leading driver Bruce Ranger at the top of the Cumberland leader board with 50 wins apiece.  Campbell has 225 starts with 41 seconds, UDRS of .374 and earnings of $182,900.  Ranger has 226 starts with 30 seconds, UDRS of .347 and earnings of $166.545.  This is the first time this season that Ranger has had to share the top spot.  However, Ranger is still on top at Plainridge, with two more race cards remaining for the season and is just $85,354 shy from breaking the $2 million seasonal mark at the Bay State oval.

Racing continues at First Tracks Cumberland on Saturday (Nov. 20) with the regular 11:00 am post time.  Our Winter Festival extended pari-mutuel meeting continues with live harness racing several days each week through December 31, 2021.


November 3, 2021 – by Chris Tully, for First Tracks Cumberland (Stephanie Gray photos)

CUMBERLAND, ME – The warmth of the sun was shining down upon the horses and fans for the opening day of Cumberland’s winter festival on Wednesday (Nov. 3) where a full card of ten races enjoyed robust wagering and competitive harness racing.

The $4,500 opener and co-feature was won by Mr Blissfull and driver Aaron Hall in 1:58.4.  Scoring from post two, Hall moved the 9-year-old son of Blissful Hall right to the top and never looked back.  Trained by Aaron’s father Craig Hall and owned by Robert Ferreira, Mr Blissfull picked up his fifth victory of the season and 31st of his career where he is quickly approaching a quarter million in lifetime earnings. 

Blue Seal Feeds sales representative Aimee Nichols cheerfully made the presentation to the winning connections.  Mr Blissfull paid 2.60 to win.  So It Goes (post 6, Athearn) finished second with Tail Hook (7, Watson) getting up for third.

The fourth race, second leg of the co-feature went to Daliocity and driver Andy Harrington.  Demonstrating that the front-end bias held strong through today’s card, Harrington sent the 7-year-old son of Dali out to the lead as soon as the wings folded, and continue to hold command of the tempo and the field.  Tripping the timer in 1:57.3, Daliocity picked up his seventh win of the season for owner and trainer Sarah Gibbs.

Daliocity paid $24.20 to win.  Sanattle Slew (post 1, Deslandes) finished second and provided for an $80.90 exacta.  Through The Fence (2, Hall) was third and coupled with the 5-1 resulted in a $492.30 trifecta.

Matt Athearn and Bruce Ranger both enjoyed driving doubles on today’s card, with total handle exceeding $70,000. 

Another popular ‘Business Day at the Track’ was sponsored by Key Bank and Landry French Construction with guests enjoying great food and refreshments on the track’s expansive apron.

Be sure to join us on Saturday, November 6 at the Trackside Pub to benefit ‘Futures for Standardbreds.’  Round Up, Donations, and Raffles during the races with giveaways throughout the event.  Visit Blue Seal Feeds and Futures for Standardbreds in the pub, which is hosted by the Trackside Pub and First Tracks Cumberland.  

Every card in the upcoming schedule boasts a $3,000 guaranteed Pick 5, which begins with the first race, and free past performances are available on the USTA’s Strategic Wagering Schedule: http://handicapping.ustrotting.com/index.cfm

Racing continues at First Tracks Cumberland for our Winter Festival extended pari-mutuel meeting featuring back-to-back cards on Tuesday & Wednesday (Nov. 9 & 10) and continues weekly through December 31, 2021.

For more information go to our website: firsttrackscumberland.com. 

Follow us on Facebook at @FirstTracksCumberland.