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.