December 22, 2023 – by Feature and photos by Chris Tully, for First Tracks Cumberland

CUMBERLAND, ME – Two of Maine harness racing’s favorite elder statesmen, 85-year-old Bob Nadeau and his trusty 14-year-old gray steed Putnams Storm made quick work of the $7,000 Frost Final at Cumberland on Friday (Dec. 22), winning the pop-up series final in 2:02.1, and putting an exclamation point on a poignant career.

“I feel wonderful,” noted the tireless octogenarian after the win.  “I’ll never own another horse like him.”

Surely the fastest and richest maritime-bred gray pacer in history, Putnams Storm puts the cherry on the top of notable harness racing career where he has eclipsed $200,000 in lifetime earnings and took a mark of 1:50.4 at the Red Mile at age five.

While today’s victory was the 40th of his career, the 14-year-old son of Force Of Life may be back next year to race in special events.  “I will keep him going and racing as long as he is sound and he enjoys it,” exclaimed Nadeau, a concrete step salesman for the last 50 year.  “We can race in the amateurs and at the fairs.  But, we will quit if tells me that it’s time.”

At one point Putnams Storm was 1-5 on the board with five minutes to post, but had gone off at 4-1 from pylon position.  He got away third and moved first over past a 1:00.4 half.  He had stepped away from the field amidst a breaker past the five-eighths and was on top and drawing off at the 1:31 third stanza.

Cruising home a winner by 2-3/4 lengths, the pair paid $10.40 to win.  Robert ‘Bob’ Nadeau is the listed owner and trainer, and of course the driver and caretaker.  He returns to Cumberland on Saturday (Dec. 23) to be recognized during the Au Revoir Retirement Showcase.

Wagering favorite Best Choice (Nick Graffam) finished second; Rest Assured (Mike Stevenson) was third.

Fittingly, another gray horse, Air Force Grad, won the first of the $5,000 Frosty consolations.  Driven by Steve Wilson and trained and owned by Charlene ‘Sherry’ Cushing, the 12-year-old son of The Panderosa came from off the pace to score in 2:02.2.  They paid $11.20 to win.

Aaron Hall and Walter Case Jr. had two wins on the program.   In the overall drivers standings, Bruce Ranger and Kevin Switzer Jr. are both tied with 74 wins apiece heading into Saturday’s card.

Saturday (Dec. 23) is a big day in the Maine harness racing industry as seventeen 14-year-old Standardbreds, including the aforementioned Putnams Storm, will parade in front of the stands, be recognized by the announcer, photographed and feted in the winners circle with gifts and prizes.  The Au Revoir Retirement Showcase also includes a special $6,000 Auld Lang Syne, exclusively for 14-year-old pacers. 

On Sunday’s closing day (Dec. 24) the track will host four $10,000 finals of the various Winter Late Closing series, with five additional $7,000 consolations to compliment the card.  In addition, the $8,000 winter Maine Amateur Driving Club (MADC) final will be contested as race two.  As always, the MADC events are sponsored by the Blue Seal Feed Stores of North Yarmouth and Windham.

First Tracks Cumberland will offer a $5,000 guaranteed Pick-5 pool on Christmas Eve (Dec. 24), which is carried on races 3 through 7 and have a mandatory payout.

Racing resumes Saturday (Dec. 23) at Cumberland, as the final Winter Festival weekend concludes with year-end action on Sunday (Dec. 24).  First post is 10:50 am each day.

For more information go to our website: Follow us on Facebook at @FirstTracksCumberland.