Ranger takes feature; Graffam wins three at Cumberland

May 6, 2023, by Chris Tully, for First Tracks Cumberland (Stephanie Gray photo)

CUMBERLAND, ME – Bruce Ranger added another score to his lofty win total, taking the $6,000 Fillies and Mares Winners Over Pace at Cumberland on Friday (May 5) with Go Sandy Go.

The Maine-native got every call as the pair skipped through opening fractions of 28.3 and 58.2 with little, to no pressure.  As the field passed the five-eighths marker, driver Mark Athearn was the first to apply pressure with Ry’s Red Rocket, while Pembroke Ali (Heath Campbell) sat chilly in the pocket.  Lydia’s Liberty (Kevin Switzer Jr.) found cover second over, and with the third stanza timed in 1:26.3, it was evident that the leader had stepped on the accelerator.

With Switzer Jr.’s cover stalling he was forced to send Lydia’s Liberty three deep around the final turn and took aim at Ranger and the even-money favorite, Go Sandy Go.  The wire arrived just in time as the pacesetters prevailed by a diminishing half-length in 1:56.3.

Trained by Benson Merrill for owners John Kiernan Jr., Thelma Kiernan and Lauren Merrill, the 8-year-old daughter of Roddy’s Bags Again picked up her second win of the four-week meet.  Go Sandy Go paid $4.20 to win.  Pembroke Ali hung on for third.

Ranger is now just seven wins away from the 10,000 win benchmark, as the ‘Ranger-10k-Watch’ continues. 

Not to be outdone, Nick Graffam scored a hat trick on the afternoon card winning the daily double with Woody’s Cash Crop (1:57.3, $9.20) and Sixby Hanover (1:57.3, $10.00), both of which came from the family’s Norton Farm, trained by his dad Mike Graffam.  Nick came back to win the sixth race with Bay Brute (1:57, $4.80), and ironically, is just seven scores shy from notching his 1,000th career victory.

Drew Campbell picked up a driving double, which put him in a 12-win tie with Bruce Ranger for bragging rights at the iconic Southern Maine oval.  Nick Graffam is now in third place with eleven victories.  Trainers Mike Graffam and Benson Merrill each got a pair of wins.  Chris Lefebvre leads all conditioners with eight wins.

Both of the popular red, gold and black-clad reinsmen (Ranger and Graffam) will be busy on Saturday’s (May 6) Derby Day program, which carries ten races and includes both the co-featured $6,500 winners over pace and $6,500 winners over trot.  Post time is 3:15 pm.  In the 50 cent Pick 5 beginning with the opener, there is a $794.05 carryover, which carries a low 16% takeout.

Kentucky Derby action and the entire card from Churchill Downs is on tap with programs, big screen television viewing and betting all available at the Fairgrounds, provided by First Tracks Cumberland. 

Live harness racing continues at Cumberland throughout the Spring and early Summer months with regular racing on Friday and Saturday each weekend.  First post is slated for 3:15 pm (EDT) during the extended pari-mutuel meeting, which runs through August 5.

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