December 18, 2023 – by Chris Tully, for First Tracks Cumberland (Joe Shaw photos)

CUMBERLAND, ME – Driver Aaron Hall swept all three of the $6,000 divisions of the Jack Frost Trotting series at Cumberland on Sunday (Dec. 17), two of which were from his own stable, and one from his dad Craig’s barn. 

In the first division Hall came first over with Matt So Sure, parked the last half and prevailing by 1-1/4 lengths in a 2:00.2, a seasonal best.  Trained and co-owned by Craig Hall with Cody Kelley, the 5-year-old son of Noble Venture picked up the fourth win of his last six starts, and fifth of the season.   He paid $4.00 to win and now has earnings of $32,366 this year.

Prescott (Andy Harrington) finished second; Starlit Thiswanman (Nick Graffam) was third.

Hall came right back to win the second division with Bill Phipps’ Namesmuscle.  The Maine native put the 11-year-old son of Muscle Mass right on the front end and maintained command every step of the way.  Holding off the late charge of High Gear No Fear (Mike Stephenson), they tripped the timer in 2:02, winning by a head.  Namesmuscle is also trained by Aaron Hall and paid $2.40 to win for the 49th time of his career.  It was his fifth win in a row, which brought his seasonal get to $27,630.

Warrawee Preferred (Nick Graffam) finished third.

The third and final division went to Hall’s own Knight Angel, a recent purchase from the Orange Crush stable of Andy and Julie Miller.  This was the 7-year-old Archangel gelding’s second victory since making Maine his new home, scoring in 2:00.4.  He paid $2.60 to win by 3-1/4 lengths. 

Cellular (Walter Case Jr.) finished second; Foxy Trottin Stick (Kevin Switzer Jr.) was third.

At first glance, one may assume that this would put Hall in a tough position as to which horse he may drive in the final.  However, Hall reminded us that, “since I own Knight Angel, I actually don’t have a choice at all.”

“All three horses raced great [on Sunday],” noted Hall.  “It should be a good race next weekend with eight solid horses in the final.  Like always, the draw will be huge.”

The swiftest race of the day went to Granny’s Girl who took a $6,000 division of the Holly Late Closer in 1:57.2.  Driven by Dan Deslandes for trainer Jeff Deslandes, she paid $8.40 to win.

The other Holly L-C was captured by Pretty Gorgeous in 1:58.2.  Driven by Kevin Switzer Jr. for trainer Benson Merrill, she paid $3.20 for the victory.

Aaron Hall and Dan Deslandes each picked up driving triples on the program.

Hunter Lofthus took the $4,400 seventh and final leg of the Maine Amateur Driving Club (MADC) race, which was his second win in a row with Martaritaondarocks. Using a big, three-wide move down the backside, the reinsman set the 4-year-old Pet Rock mare ablaze to score by 3-1/4 lengths in 1:59.3.  They paid $4.60 to win, which was the mare’s fourth victory in five starts.

Now entrenched firmly in second place, Lofthus will be among the favorites for the $6,000 winter MADC final slated for Sunday (Dec. 24).  As always, the MADC events are sponsored by the Blue Seal Feed Stores of North Yarmouth and Windham.

Looking ahead, Cumberland’s third annual Au Revoir Retirement Ceremonies are scheduled for Saturday (Dec. 23).  Seventeen 14-year-old Standardbreds will parade in front of the stands and be recognized by the announcer and feted in the winners circle with gifts and prizes.  Those that are still racing are cordially invited to participate in our $6,000 Auld Lang Syne race for older pacers, where the foals of 2009 will be given preference and inside post positions.  Trainers are encouraged to check the upcoming condition sheet for more details.

The four $10,000 finals of the Winter Late Closing series will go postward on Sunday (Dec. 24), with as many $7,000 consolations as entries allow.

Racing resumes on Friday (Dec. 22) at Cumberland, the final Winter Festival weekend with year-end action on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  First post is 10:55 am each day.

Racing at Cumberland continues three days each week through Christmas Eve, 2023. 

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