April 23, 2023, by Chris Tully, for First Tracks Cumberland (Stephanie Gray photos)
CUMBERLAND, ME – Nick Graffam continued his quest to reach the 1,000 win plateau on Saturday (April 22) at Cumberland, winning the featured $7,500 Spring Fling Late Closer #2 elimination with The Bird Dance N in grand fashion.
Leaving from post seven as part of a common ownership entry, Graffam flew right to the top in a swift 27.2 opening panel. Moving to the half in the nine-horse field, the other half of the heavily favored (1-9) entry Dragonology (Dan Deslandes) had moved first over and the pair paced through middle splits of 58.2 and 127.3.
Ultimately, Graffam was able to maintain his well-rated one length margin to win in 1:57. The 8-year-old imported son of A Rocknroll Dance is owned by Jose Cerventes and trained by Karl Butterfield. Entry-mate Dragonology finished second; Soho Leviathan A was third.
The top eight finishers in the elimination race (that enter) are eligible for the $20,000 Spring Fling #2 final next Saturday (April 28) at First Tracks Cumberland.
Three $6,000 sub-features saw victories from some new talent and some fan favorites, all taking their second win in as many starts. Western Stepp (Drew Campbell) scored in 1:58.4 to take the fillies and mare Winners Over for driver Drew Campbell and trainer James Dunn. The 10-year-old Maine-sired Western Maverick mare is owned by Diane Dunn and picked up her second win in a row. She paid $13.40 to pick up her 54th lifetime victory.
The $6,000 top trot was captured by Little Macabee with a driver change to Drew Campbell. It was the second win in a row by the 9-year-old son of Chapter Seven, who is trained by Eric Bickmore for owner Maryann Tompkins. He won in 1:59.4 and paid $6.80 to win the 30th race of his career.
All the top pacers, and all of their men, couldn’t topple Lexus Witha View A again. Driven by Kevin Switzer Jr. to his second win in a row, the 9-year-old son of Somebeachsomewhere scoffed at the assigned eight-hole and scampered off to victory in 1:58.1. Sent off as the heavy favorite, the Aussie-import is a recent acquisition for trainer and co-owner Jamie Gerard with Strategic Racing Stable.
Drew Campbell led all drivers with three wins on the card, and is now tied with Bruce Ranger at seven victories in the fledgling season after four programs. Kevin Switzer had two wins bringing his dash total to six, which places him in third place among Cumberland reinsmen. Trainer Chris Lefebvre is the leading conditioner with six victories.
Looking ahead, the public can watch and wager on the 149th renewal of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday (May 6) at the Fairgrounds. Last year, First Tracks Cumberland had a local fan hit big on a “hunch” wager placed on longshot winner Rich Strike.
Racing resumes Friday (April 28) with the $15,000 final of the Spring Fling #1. Live Harness racing from First Tracks Cumberland continues throughout the Spring and early Summer months with regular racing on Friday and Saturday each weekend. First post remains 3:15 pm (EDT) during the extended pari-mutuel meeting, which runs through August 5.