May 8, 2022, by Chris Tully for First Tracks Cumberland (Stephanie Gray photos)

CUMBERLAND, ME – Mike Girouard gave Rockin Ellie a textbook steer to victory in the $3,800 Maine Amateur Driving Club (MADC) Group C event on Saturday (May 7) at Cumberland.

Leaving from pylon position, Girouard let the fast-leaving Led Schneppelin (Jason Bertolini) take command, but not before forcing a stinging :28.1 first quarter.  As Bertolini attempted to reduce the pace, Girouard was happy in the catbird seat, while the rest of the field played catch up. 

Wagering favorite Road Untraveled (Benson Merrill) moved first over at the half and subsequently stalled, which allowed Girouard and Rockin Ellie to thread the needle going into the final turn and look the leader in the eye.  A stretch battle ensued with Rockin Ellie prevailing by three parts of a length in 2:01.1.  The 6-year-old daughter of Rockincam is also trained by Girouard, and is owned by Just Enough LLC (Ted Suleski).

Rockin Ellie paid $8.60 to win her second outing in her last three starts.  Led Schneppelin finished second, Baywood Shadow was third.

In the $5,200 featured cond. pace, Matt Athearn scored from off the pace with Obscene Blue Chip.  Coming from seven lengths back at the half, Athearn unleashed an explicit first-over drive to the front, passing five horses to win by three-quarters of a length in 1:58.  The 8-year-old son of Western Ideal is owned by Cris Wescott and trained by Ken Secord.

Obscene Blue Chip paid $14.20 to win his third outing in four most recent starts at Cumberland this year.  Miss U Big Mike finished second, Rockin’ Cougar was third in a tight finish.

“Double Digit” Dave Ingraham strikes again with Kelly Case’s Arsenal, winning his second in a row at Cumberland.  The 14-year-old son of Artiscape paid $17.20 to his backers.

Dan Deslandes enjoyed a driving double and has tied Kevin Switzer Jr. at 14 for the most dash wins by a driver at Cumberland after 10 seasonal programs.  Matt Athearn is third with 11 victories to his credit.  Benson Merrill (9) has a one win lead over Chris Lefebvre (8) in the training ranks.

Post time is 4 p.m. (EDT) for both the Friday and Saturday programs on May 13 & 14.  Cumberland’s extended pari-mutuel meeting races each weekend through July 23.


May 8, 2022, by Chris Tully for First Tracks Cumberland

CUMBERLAND, ME – The 148th Kentucky Derby caused many a savvy punter to scratch his or her head in disbelief as Saturday’s (May 7) ‘fastest two minutes in sports’ was captured by the longest shot on the board. 

Evidently, a lack of handicapping know-how didn’t stop 38-year-old mother of two, Linda Murray from cashing big on Rich Strike in the 12th at Churchill.

“I literally walked in and learned that win, place and show meant first, second and third on the little machine,” noted the pretty loan officer from Portland.

“I watched the Derby on television before, but the betting was new to me,” Murray admitted.  She and her boyfriend, Chris Tyll, were eager to watch and wager on the big race, so they visited the track for Derby Day.  It was also Murray’s first visit to a harness racing track. 

The Cumberland races were going on live, and she had never watched a horse race in-person before.  Just before the Derby post time a harness horse in the ninth race at popped out at her.

Having worked in real estate for the last decade, Murray got a ‘hunch’ at work.  “I had been on a call earlier in the day about investing in properties and the presenting speaker was an Air Force Academy graduate,” Murray said.

“I was telling Chris about the opportunity when I saw the name in the program, Air Force Grad.  I bet that horse ‘across the board’ and he finished second.  So I thought ‘this is a sign’”

In reviewing the Derby contenders, Tyll told Murray that ‘this is the horse that is going to lose’ because he was 99-1, referring to Rich Strike’s odds at the time.

“I thought, he made it to the Derby, so he can’t be that much of a loser,” Murray opined. 

Lots of people have made money at the windows betting names and horse color and the like.  In this case it was the horse’s betting number that stood out for Murray.  “21 was my age when I had my first son, Charlie, so I bet him.”

And she walked away with a lot more money than she started the day with, which always helps when raising children. 

In 2012, when her second son Nolan was five, Murray recalled, “I was a young, single mom, cleaning houses and going to school part time when he was diagnosed with a rare heart condition.  He was listed for transplant, so we basically lived in the hospital for an entire year, waiting for a heart.”

Nolan got his heart on New Year’s Eve that same year, and is now living a healthy, normal teenage life.  Her oldest, Charlie, is now 17. 

Murray concluded, “Stuff like this always happens to me.  There’s always something bigger, always a meaning behind stuff.”