December 18, 2022 – by Chris Tully, for First Tracks Cumberland (Stephanie Gray photos)

CUMBERLAND, ME – Michigan-native Dakota “Action” Jackson put his Ontario-bred stable star Sports Teen into the hands of Mainer Walter Case Jr., and together they captured the $15,000 Polar Express Late Closing Series Final # 3 in decisive fashion on Friday (Dec. 16).

The 6-year-old son of Sportswriter had a different driver every week for the last four weeks, winning the first $6,000 elimination leg with Ron Cushing two weeks prior. Nonetheless, Jackson’s instructions to Case were simply, ‘leave with him.’ As the starting gate swung shut, Sports Teen and Case had effectively shut the door on the competition.

Leaving from post three, the pair shot to the front by 1-1/2 lengths in a 29 second opening panel over the muddy surface. Nets Of Passion (Mike Stevenson) was content to sit in the two-hole. The first horse to pull was Twin B Impressive (Bruce Ranger), and was followed in the outer flow by Swellendam (Drew Campbell) into a 1:00.2 half-mile clocking.

Case pulled the plugs on Sports Teen past the 1:29.1 third panel and with Twin B Impressive stalling on the outside Harrington found room with Commondiscourtesy to gain some momentum from a previously boxed-in position of fifth on the pylons.

As the field turned for home, Sports Teen found another gear, and with a swift turn of foot drew off to score by 3-1/2 lengths in 1:59 over the wet surface. Owned and trained by Dakota Jackson, Sports Teen paid $7.60 to win. Nets Of Passion finished second; Commondiscourtesy was third.

In the Blue Seal Winner’s Circle, Jackson was surrounded by family, including his twin brother Zach, and exclaimed, “aside from winning two at the Meadowlands, this has been the greatest thrill of my life.”

The race was sponsored by the Windham Blue Seal Feeds and North Yarmouth Blue Seal Feeds stores.

Lisa and Wally Watson won the $7,500 Polar Express consolation #3 with their own Terror Hall, who had no issues with the moist surface, and went home a winner in 1:59.4. Lisa Watson trained and husband Wally Watson drove the 9-year-old son of Western Terror, who paid $7.20 on a $2 ticket. Librado Hanover (Aaron Hall) finished second; Touch Of Dragon (Nick Graffam) was third.

Over a dozen trainers, drivers and track staff filled the winners circle for the fourth race, Thank You Marc Reynolds event. The track bids farewell to their inaugural racing secretary who is moving on after this meet, and thanked him for his steadfast support of Maine harness racing.

Walter Case Jr. and Mark Athearn each had driving doubles on the program.

Looking ahead, racing continues Monday (Dec. 19, the postponed 17th race date), and features the $12,000 Polar Express Final # 2.

Also part of the day’s festivities will be the ‘Au Revior’ Retirement Showcase. All eighteen horses will parade in front of the grandstand while the announcer reads a brief biography as we bid farewell to each 14-year-old. Sporting impressive combined earnings of $5.7 million in purse earnings with an average of $317,000, these retiring or retired Standardbreds will be the shining stars of the day. With a combined win total of 784, these ‘monsters of the midway’ have averaged 43 trips to their respective winners circles. Combined, these horses have started 5,552 times in races all over the world.

Every race has a 50-cent Trifecta, and the final race each day also features a 20-cent Pentafecta.

Racing resumes at Cumberland’s Winter Festival harness meet on Thursday (Dec. 22). The final weekend of racing continues on Friday (Dec. 23), and concludes for the season on Christmas Eve Day, Saturday (Dec. 24). Post time 11 am.

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