Drew Campbell won the Rick Cushing Memorial on Wednesday (Dec. 29) and, once again, took the lead over Bruce Ranger in the driver standings at Cumberland.
As the battle continues for bragging rights at the southern Maine facility, top drivers Drew Campbell and Bruce Ranger traded places atop the leader board on the penultimate card of the meet, with Campbell winning two races to wrestle the lead from Ranger, 72-71.
Drew Campbell won the second race wire-to-wire with Patricia Sumner’s Pembroke Scorpio to even the score. Campbell then came right back to win the $10,000 Rick Cushing Memorial Late Closing Series Final with Safety Second.
Leaving from post seven, Campbell scorched the car and was on top by five lengths at the half in 1:00.1 with the favourite. On a racing surface that was getting heavier by the minute, Campbell still managed to cruise to victory by 10 lengths in 2:03.1. Mr Wiggle Pants (Bruce Ranger) finished second; Bettoriffic (Dan Deslandes) was third.
The Blue Seal Winner's Circle was packed with a host of Cushing family members, most notably Rick’s wife, Gloria, who was gifted the presentation’s trophy halter by winning owner Butch Eaton.
Trained by Zach Vickerson for new owner Charles “Butch” Eaton III, the six-year-old son of Custard The Dragon picked up the 36th win of his career, paying $4.40 to win.
The $15,000 Fred Nichols Memorial Late Closing Series was captured by So It Goes and driver Nick Graffam. Despite the slow going, Graffam pulled the five-year-old son of American Ideal three-wide up the backside to score for trainer Brian Lamb, who shares ownership with Mona Dodd. Obscene Blue Chip (Andy Harrington) finished second; Commondiscourtesy (Drew Campbell) was third.
So It Goes paid $21.20 to win.
Also on the card were races named in honour of two gentlemen that have dedicated the last 20 years of their lives to Maine harness racing. Marc Warren, the Northeast regional manager for United Tote, and Mike Gurney, the current site supervisor for International Sound, were both recognized for their decades of service to the industry.
In addition to Campbell, driver Nick Graffam also had two wins on the Wednesday (Dec. 29) program.
Driver Drew Campbell has been neck-and-neck with Ranger for the last month, trading positions in the top spot of the talented drivers’ colony.
The final day of the inaugural Cumberland extended pari-mutuel meeting is set for Friday (Dec. 31), which is also the date of the track's special retirement ceremonies for 14-year-old Standardbreds.
The entire day will feature over a dozen retiring horses leading post parades and being recognized trackside for their career accomplishments. Each horse will be given a special halter with their names engraved on the plates, compliments of the Maine Harness Horsemen’s Association and First Tracks Cumberland.
In addition, the 13-race program also includes a special pari-mutuel match race between two retiring trotters: Mike Cushing’s Roadshow Vic and Mark Harris’ Beer League. The two veterans have won a combined $615,000 lifetime.
Aside from the usual plethora of betting products, the match race marks the start of the middle Pick-4. In addition, Cumberland will offer superfectas in the sixth, eighth and 13th races.
Race secretary Marc Reynolds noted, “We are pleased to be able to give the horses and the horsemen every opportunity to race on the season’s final card. The race office tried valiantly to utilize every entry that dropped in the box. We must also give special recognition to the Maine Racing Commission for allowing us to have win-only wagering on our special two-horse trotting event.”
Also on Friday (Dec. 31), First Tracks Cumberland hosts the final of the Maine Amateur Driving Club, sponsored by Blue Seal Feeds, and will recognize the leading driver and trainer of the meet trackside.
For more information, go to firsttrackscumberland.com.
(First Tracks Cumberland)