Grondin sweeps Maine trots at Cumberland

Horsemen remember Frank Dubreuil

June 29, 2024, by Chris Tully, for First Tracks Cumberland (Joe Shaw photos)

CUMBERLAND, ME – Trainer Valerie Grondin made a clean sweep of both Maine Sire Stakes for 3-year-old trotters at Cumberland Raceway on Friday (June 28), the second trainer to do so in as many weeks.

In the pair of $16,000-plus divisions of Pine Tree State-bred harness horses, the Bangor-based conditioner, along with her husband Heath Campbell, are always a formidable force on the local stakes circuit and proved that point once again.

The action began with an early non-betting race for Maine-sired 3-year-old male trotters, where Mark Athearn had sent last week’s winner Carabassett to the top from pylon position.  Following splits of 29.3 and 1:01.3, it appeared as if the pacesetter would have things his own way.

However, driver Drew Campbell piloting Grondin’s Chipper Dale was sitting comfortably in the 2-hole following a 1:31.1 third panel and tipped out in the lane to overcome the leader and score in 2:02.1 by 2-1/4 lengths. 

The sophomore son of Shake It Off Lindy trotted his final quarter in 30.4 and took a new lifetime mark for owner-breeder Lynn-Marie Plouffe to take home the lion’s share of the $15,758 purse.  The connections surely have high hopes for Chipper Dale as he won six of eight starts last season.

Carrabassett finished second; Pembroke Will (Heath Campbell-Grondin) was third.

The regular card featured the $16,208 3-year-old filly trot, which was a rematch between last week’s victor, My Saving Grace (Mark Athearn-Gretchen Athearn) and last year’s 2-year-old filly champion Pembroke Breeze (Heath Campbell-Grondin), who finished second last time out. 

Once again, Athearn left with his filly My Saving Grace, setting reasonable fractions of 30.3 and 1:03.1 to the half.  With the tempo increasing dramatically moving into a 1:33.1 third stanza, Heath Campbell had Pembroke Breeze first up and gaining ground with every stride.  By the head of the stretch the only question was ‘how fast’ and ‘by how many’ the daughter of Pembroke Slugger would be victorious.

The Grondin trainee did everything her aviator asked of her, scoring in 2:03 by 4-3/4 lengths, taking a new lifetime mark in the process.  Owned and bred by Bill Varney, she paid $4.20 to win.

Twisted Venture (Mike Cushing-Charlene Cushing) finished second; My Saving Grace was third.

Friday’s program also included a tribute race, in memory of Frank Dubreuil where dozens of his fellow horsemen, admirers and friends formed a horseshoe tribute at the finish wire in honor of their former presiding judge.

Drivers Kevin Switzer Jr., Walter Case Jr., Aaron Hall and Dave Ingraham had driving doubles on the program.  However, none paid more than ‘Double-Digit’ Dave’s score in the ninth race where he paid $131.40 with the Michel Bilodeau-trained Age Is A Number in 1:58.4.

Looking ahead to Saturday (June 29), Cumberland welcomes back the 3-year-old pacing colts for another round of Maine Sires Stakes action, with two $16,000-plus divisions going postward as races one and three. 

The First Tracks Cumberland meet continues throughout the Summer months with regular racing on Friday and Saturday each weekend during the extended pari-mutuel meeting, which runs through August 3. 

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