Hardin Praised As Freshmen Wrap At Topsham

Michelle Hardin
Published: August 13, 2023 03:33 pm EDT

A pair of $14,000-plus divisions of the Maine Sire Stakes for two-year-old colt and gelding pacers closed out the 169th week of harness racing at historic Topsham Fair. The duo of early, non-wagering races kicked off the final, blockbuster card on Saturday (Aug. 12), which was met with praise and applause for the second-year director of racing Michelle Hardin.

“It takes a village to run a fair,” Hardin noted on social media after receiving flowers from the Maine Harness Horsemen’s Association and dozens of congratulatory posts on the final day of the meet.

Hardin, 43, is a Standardbred trainer and owner from Topsham that stepped in last year and filled the often thankless position with poise and perseverance. While thanking all of her volunteers, Hardin noted, “without whom I wouldn’t be able to do my job,” she continued, “Fair season is all about community and we have a great one!”

Area businesses, such as Steve McGee construction, Ray Labbe and Sons and Harpswell Auto sales all donated equipment to help get the track ‘race ready’ for the fair. “Mark Ponziani spent more hours than I could count getting the track into condition this summer,” she added.

Hardin credits this community spirit as the essential ingredient to having a successful fair. An L.L. Bean manager when she is not training horses, Hardin was quick to point out that, “Last year was a great learning experience and it taught me that having the right people in the right places is key to a smooth run.”

Aside from finding people to perform all of the duties necessary to facilitate a race card, Hardin was also instrumental in getting the video feed for the races on YouTube so that fans could watch the races from home.The broadcast occurred live every day, complete with slick wagering graphics and changes, and remains available for replays after the races.

“We hoped to reach a wider audience through social media channels and it seems to have paid off, as we had an overwhelming response,” concluded Hardin. “We are hoping that we can build on that, and more Fairs will be able to do the same in the future.”

Clearly, more fairs need more people like Michelle Hardin.

In the opening round of Maine Sire Stakes action, Two Fold Cold finally figured out this ‘racing thing’ and picked up the first victory of his somewhat tumultuous career. Through many trials and tribulations, the Marc Tardif-owned and trained son of Deuce Seelster seemed to display a knack for galloping at the most inopportune times. Having toiled in relative obscurity since late June, he picked up a pair of fifth-place cheques along the way.

Things seemed to be going as they had in the past when driver Kevin Switzer Jr. had to steady the fractious colt just after the start following a miscue. But that all changed in an instant at Topsham. Once the pair was back pacing, Two Fold Cold was all business as they set evenly rated fractions of :31.2, 1:02 and 1:32.1 while on top by a few lengths at the third panel.

That’s when it all came together for the freshman gelding pacer as he drew off from the $14,487 field by 11 lengths to score in 2:02.4, breaking his maiden and taking his first lifetime record. He was bred in Maine by Gary and Kristina Hall. Whats For Suppaah (Aaron Hall) finished second and Fisher Kat (Nick Graffam) was third.

The second $14,486 division was handily captured by Hesjustadelight in 2:03.4. Driven by Ron Cushing for trainer Heidi Gibbs, the son of Western Maverick picked up his third wire-to-wire Maine Sire Stakes romp, from six seasonal starts. He continues to lead all the male freshman pacers in the point standings.

Owned by Cushing, breeder Lynn-Marie Plouffe and Anthony and Joseph Romanelli, Hesjustadelight now has $27,605 in seasonal earnings.

Justcallmebuck (Gary Hall) finished second and Oakleypopsthedeuce (Dave Ingraham) was third.

On Sunday (Aug. 13), the Maine pari-mutuel fair circuit transitions to Skowhegan for another full week of Maine harness racing at its finest and continues through Aug. 19.

(Maine Sire Stakes)

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