May 27, 2023, by Chris Tully, for First Tracks Cumberland (Stephanie Gray photos)
CUMBERLAND, ME – The $10,000 for 10,000 Bruce Ranger Open Pace turned out to be a battle of the Pine Tree State’s pacing stars as The Bird Dance N defeated some of the area’s swiftest sidesteppers on Friday (May 26) at Cumberland. The centerpiece of the track’s Bruce Ranger Weekend, the race was named in tribute to the leading reinsman’s recent five-figure win total.
Slated for race eight, the six top pacers lined up behind the Wes Brown starting gate with The Bird Dance N (Nick Graffam) blasting out for the lead from post four. Grand Gallop Semalu (Dan Deslandes) guarded his pylon position and forced the early leader into a little tap dance to get the top before the quarter pole. Lexus Witha View A (Kevin Switzer Jr.) was out and moving immediately and poked a nose in front of a begrudging The Bird Dance N into a 27.2 opening panel.
With Switzer now controlling the tempo, Rocksapatriot (Dave Ingraham) moved first over going to the 56.2 half, with Graffam boxed in and full of pace heading down the backstretch the second time. The pacers hit the third panel in a steamy 1:25, and with the action fast and furious, fans were thinking, ‘could this be a track record?’
As the field turned for home a leg weary Lexus Witha View A drifted out from the pylons, giving The Bird Dance N just enough racing room to squeeze up the inside. However, Lexus Witha View A found another gear and fought back valiantly and the two pacers battled down the stretch with Graffam and The Bird Dance N prevailing by a nose in 1:54.3, which was just a fifth of a second off the divisional benchmark.
Sent off at even money, the 8-year-old son of A Rocknroll Dance paid $4.00 to win for trainer Karl Butterfield and owner Jose Cervantes. It was the fourth win of the year and a new seasonal mark for The Bird Dance N, who has earned $26,750 in 11 springtime starts. Rocksapatriot finished third.
Following the race, Bruce Ranger, along with his a handful of friends and family members joined the perennial leading dash champion in the winner’s circle to help celebrate ‘Bruce Ranger Weekend’ at Cumberland. The horse people participating in the day’s racing program also enjoyed a cook out in the paddock, sponsored by Silver Streak Starters.
Walter Case Jr. grabbed a wire-to-wire score in the $5,500 top trot, winning with Vesuvio Bi in 1:59.4. Trained by Joseph Nelson and owned by Michele Nelson and Eric Everett, the 9-year-old son of Manofmanymissions paid $4.20 to win.
Aaron Hall, fresh off his 500th driving win at Bangor on Wednesday, picked up two more victories on the card, as did Drew Campbell and Wally Watson.
Racing resumes Saturday (May 27), where First Tracks Cumberland and the Maine Harness Horsemen’s Association will continue the ‘Bruce Ranger Weekend’ at the fairgrounds. The affable driver will be signing autographs on his special commemorative program on the apron after the first race. The second race is the ever-popular Maine Amateur Driving Club race, sponsored by Blue Seal Feeds.
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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