April 3, 2022, by Chris Tully for First Tracks Cumberland

This season’s initial qualifiers at First Tracks Cumberland indicated deep support for New England harness racing on Saturday (April 2) as 13 races went postward starting at 12 noon.

Racing Secretary Marc Reynolds had 72 entries in his virtual entry box, with a vast array of pacers and trotters prepping for the upcoming Spring/Summer meet at the iconic Southern Maine oval.

Reynolds noted, “We were very pleased with the strong turnout.  With a double draw on Tuesday (April 5) to fill our opening weekend cards slated for Friday and Saturday (April 8 & 9), everyone at First Tracks looks forward to getting the Maine horsemen back into action.”

Under sunny skies “special guest” announcer Mike Cushing called the entire program, which was also broadcast live on the Race Track Network.  Of the 10 pacing races on the card, four were clocked in 2:00 or faster, despite chilly and gusty conditions.

The fastest race of the day was captured by Soho Leviathan in 1:58.4 for driver Andy Harrington, who cut the mile from post 6.  Owned by Lawrence Angello, Jr., the 9-year-old son of Rock N Roll Heaven is trained by Bob Marston. 

Conditioner Marston’s entries won half of the races entered, enjoying five preparatory victories on the day’s program, with ten horses starting.  One of which, Meetmeatthedance, was guided by owner/driver Joe Burke in advance of the upcoming Maine Amateur Driving Club events.  First time QF driver Alan Rand (59) also made his debut with a Marston trainee, getting the thrill of rounding the final turn right next to Walter Case, Jr.

Trainer/drivers Mike Stevenson and Dan Deslandes (two) enjoyed victories, and last year’s leading trainer Benson Merrill picked-up three wins on the program with Bruce Ranger piloting two and Aaron Hall guiding a third.

The swiftest trotting race of the day went to Kyrie Deo and driver Mark Athearn.  Trained by Gretchen Athearn for owner Bill “Yarmouth Lumber” Phipps, the 5-year-old son of Donato Hanover posted the largest margin of victory of the day, drawing off by 12 lengths to score in 2:02.4.

Over a dozen punters filled the mezzanine of the iconic fairgrounds grandstand, with prognosticating and pontification the theme of the day.  As usual, the outside fence was lined with the cars and trucks of racing fans, trying to get a sneak peak of the performances of the local equine athletes who will advance to the first Maine purse races of 2022.

Reynolds, who was on hand for the day’s events also stated, “Our new track crew has done a fantastic job with the racing surface itself.  There was extensive clean up after a tough winter, as well as significant preparation of the track over the last month.”

“Anyone that was able to tune in to watch would have been impressed with the quality and clarity of the signal.  To me, this is a clear indicator of the level of commitment brought by First Tracks in providing a quality racing product,” Reynolds concluded.

Post time for the Spring/Summer meet is set for 3 p.m. on both Fridays and Saturdays, with the extended pari-mutuel meeting racing each weekend through July 23.

Qualifiers will be held once a week on Saturdays at 2 p.m., before the start of the pari-mutuel card.

More information can be found on our website: https://firsttrackscumberland.com and on our Facebook page: First Tracks Cumberland.