May 20, 2023, by Chris Tully, for First Tracks Cumberland

CUMBERLAND, ME – Nick Graffam won the featured $6,500 Winners Over Pace on Friday (May 19) at Cumberland with The Bird Dance N, putting the local reinsman just one win away from the 1,000 lifetime win benchmark.

The top pacers in Southern Maine enjoyed a full field of seven going postward for Friday’s eighth race, with Heath Campbell blasting out for the lead with Hespoisedtopounce A from post six.  Graffam also left alertly, but yielded into the two-hole with The Bird Dance, and sat patiently through opening fractions of 27.4 and 57.3.

The first to pull going past the half was Kevin Switzer Jr. with Lexus Withaview A who matched strides with the leader into a 1:26.1 third panel.  The Bird Dance was enjoying a perfect trip around the final turn as the two front-end battlers were wheel to wheel and nose to nose. 

At the head of the stretch it was all over but the chirping as Graffam slipped the 3/5 favorite up the inside to fly down the lane, winning easily by three parts of a length.  Trained by Karl Butterfield and owned by Jose Cerventes, the 8-year-old son of A Rocknroll Dance paid $3.40 to win.  Lexus With a View A got up to be second; Hespoisedtopounce A hung on for third.

Graffam has eight drives on the Saturday program, and will be working hard to capture that four-digit dash win total.

Next week, in honor of ‘Bruce Ranger Weekend,’ First Tracks Cumberland will offer a Free For All Pace, with a lofty purse of $10,000.  Horses that have made a purse start in the state of Maine this season will be given preference, with many of the aforementioned pacers likely to participate.  See race secretary Rob Pennington’s condition sheet for further details.

Aaron Hall had three wins on the card with: Bellas Shadow (2:03; $2.20), Whatchagonnadoboo (1:57.3, $12.60), and a triple-digit score with Iwillmakeyousaywow (2:00.1; $102.20).  The 29-year-old Hall began driving in 2014, but started competing ‘full time’ in 2017 and is now just two wins away from his 500th career driving victory.  A busy salesman in his ‘day job’, the Maine-native is proudly ‘Sponsored by Blue Seal Feeds’ and has earned $2.4 million in purses.  Hall, the affable treasurer of the Maine Harness Horseman’s Association, has seven mounts on Saturday.

Dan Deslandes and Bruce Ranger both had driving doubles on the program, with the latter taking control of the drivers’ standings with 17 trips to the winners circle.

With the three-day weekend in full swing, the 148th running of the $1,500,000 Preakness Stakes is the Saturday centerpiece of the Southern Maine oval’s trifecta of offerings.  The track will have Pimlico programs, big screen television viewing and betting all available at the Fairgrounds, provided by First Tracks Cumberland. 

Saturday’s (May 20) program also carries eleven races, and kicks off with the $6,500 Fillies and Mares Winners Over $10,000 Lifetime Handicap Pace.  The popular Maine Amateur Driving Club goes postward in the second race, is now in its third week, and is sponsored by Blue Seal Feed Stores of North Yarmouth and Windham. The featured race for Sunday (May 21) is the $6,500 NW $5000 Trot, with post time set at 3:15 pm.   

Looking ahead to Friday (May 26) and Saturday (May 27), First Tracks Cumberland and the Maine Harness Horsemen’s Association will present ‘Bruce Ranger Weekend’ at the fairgrounds.   A special color cover program wrap will be filled with seven pages of old and recent photos of one of Maine’s favorite sons, along with interviews and autograph sessions with Bruce Ranger.  Fans will not want to miss this opportunity to share in the Norton Farm driver’s special ceremonies, which will honor his racing accomplishments, including his recent 10,000th career victory.

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.