June 30, 2024, by Chris Tully, for First Tracks Cumberland (Joe Shaw photos)

CUMBERLAND, ME – Two $16,000-plus divisions of the Maine Sire Stakes for 3-year-old pacing colts resulted in a shuffling of the deck for this crop of sidesteppers, with two new seasonal winners emerging on Saturday (June 29) at Cumberland Raceway.

Carded as races one and three on the 12-race afternoon program, the Maine faithful bring their some of their best stock to these stakes events, and this week was no exception.  In the first $16,257 division trainer-driver Ron Cushing sent Hesjustadelight (7-2) on a forward trajectory right from the start.

Scoring from post five the son of Western Maverick rolled swiftly out from the start and was hung out by Thru The Fire (10-1, Andy Harrington-Marc Tardif) into a 28.1 opening panel.  With the pair gaining over 10 lengths of separation on the field, Harrington took back and Cushing settled in on the front end before they hit the 3/8s marker. 

With a more forgiving half in 59, the rest of the field started to decrease their lengths behind the leader and move closer to the pace, while the leader hit the third panel in 1:28.2.  Down the backside the second time, 1-9 betting choice Ella V Fella (Kevin Switzer Jr.-Tardif) moved into second place but got rough gaited in the turn as he approached the pacesetter’s helmet.  That allowed Cushing and Hesjustadelight to scamper off and score unfettered by 2-3/4 lengths in 1:59, a new career best.  He paid $9.20 to win.

Owned by Ron Cushing, breeder Lynn-Marie Plouffe, Anthony and Joseph Romanelli, it was the gelding’s first seasonal victory and fifth lifetime win.

Ella V Fella finished second; Thru The Fire was third.

In the second $16,482 division of the Maine Sire Stakes the favored winner of the last two legs, Justcallmebuck (3-5, Heath Campbell-Gary Hall) left from pylon position and took command through a 28.4 opening panel.  With a more pedestrian half in 1:00.2 the outer flow materialized with Arts Flight (14-1, Harrington-Tardif) first up and stable mate Two Fold Cold (9-1, Switzer-Tardif) second over.

As the pace appeared to be stalling on the front end into a 1:28.4 third panel, Switzer tipped Two Fold Cold three-wide down the backside and set upon the leaders through the final turn.  With a bold move and the momentum behind them, the pair breezed down the lane and got up to win by a length in 1:58.4, a new lifetime mark.  He paid $20.80 to win.

Owned and trained by Marc Tardif, the son of Deuce Seelster was bred by Gary and Kristina Hall.  Justcallmebuck hung on to be second; Wes’s Challenge (Walter Case Jr.-Tardif) was third.

In other news, So Rock N’Roll extended his win streak to eight, taking the $6,000 featured overnight in 1:54.2, which was a new lifetime mark for the 4-year-old son of Western Maverick.  Trained by Benson Merrill and driven by Bruce Ranger, he paid just $2.20 to win.  Owned and bred by Leighton Property/Lesley Leighton, he came from off the pace once again and overpowered his foes.

Benson Merrill also won the $5,000 Maine Amateur Driving Club (MADC) with Velocity Sub Z in 1:59.  Owned and trained by Judson Merrill, he paid $16.60 to win. The MADC is sponsored by the Blue Seal Feed Stores of North Yarmouth and Windham, Maine.

Drew Campbell fashioned a driving double, and Benson Merrill enjoyed a training double.

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. 

For additional information, visit our website at firsttrackscumberland.com, or find us on social media at https://www.facebook.com/FirstTracksCumberland/