Pine Tree Victor Sets Cumberland Record On Closing Day

SKyway Victor winning at First Tracks Cumberland
Published: August 5, 2023 10:00 pm EDT

Plainridge invader Skyway Victor was a confident 1:54.2 winner in Cumberland’s featured closing day event, the $25,000 Pine Tree Invitational Pace, on Saturday, Aug. 5, posting one of the swiftest miles of the 33-day meet.

Driver Kevin Switzer Jr. and Skyway Victor were parked out most of the mile to score by 1-3/4 lengths over anxious pacesetter The Bird Dance N.

When the wings folded, the restless, front-running The Bird Dance N (Nick Graffam) assumed his usual spot on point, setting a sharp :27.1 opening panel.  Not content to sit in the three-hole, Switzer Jr. pulled his charge out going to the quarter-mile marker and was thwarted for the front around the three-eighths pole and through the second turn.

As the field straightened out to go by the stands the second time, Switzer Jr. ducked his horse to the pylons as the top pacers hit the half in :56.1.  Skyway Victor was half-in, half-out going around the five-eighths paddock turn and then committed to the outside before the 1:25.1 third panel, where he was again toe-to-toe with the The Bird Dance N, eventually poking a nose in front.

By the head of the stretch, Skyway Victor had established a short lead but then started to gain some additional separation as the field rushed down the stretch to the wire.  Skyway Victor, as the even-money favourite, prevailed while equalling the track record for aged pacing geldings. 

Trained and co-owned by Mark Eaton with Robert Griffin, the five-year-old son of Tellitlikeitis picked up his 20th career victory.  He paid $4.20 to win. 

The Wild Card (Bruce Ranger) finished secondand Cigars And Port (Wally Watson) was third.

The $10,000 Charles Malia Distinguished Service Invitational Trot was captured by heavy favourite Nows The Moment and driver Mike Stevenson, trainer Allison MacDonald and owner Sonya MacDonald. Scoring in 1:57.1, the time was just a tick off the track record for older trotting geldings. It was the 39th victory of his illustrious career, putting the eight-year-old Credit Winner gelding’s lifetime earnings at $643,222.  He paid $2.20 to win.  Luvcrunchess (Kevin Switzer Jr.) finished second and Pembroke Regal (Heath Campbell) was third.

The race recognized the dedication to Maine harness racing that presiding judge Charles Malia faithfully provided during his decades of officiating at area racetracks. With Mr. Malia on hand to receive the recognition, the winner's circle was packed with the owner's connections and well-wishers of the retired PJ.

The $10,000 Maine Amateur Driving Club final was won by Todd Whitney driving Airspinder to a 1:56.3 score, winning by a quarter-length over Benson Merrill and Art Of Endurance.  Airspinder paid $7.80 to win.  Chumlee A (Ryan Hall) was third.  The race was sponsored by the Blue Seal Feed stores of Windham and North Yarmouth.

The undercard also had several $10,000 Pop-Up Series finals and make-up races, as well as four divisions of the Maine Sire Stakes, making the day one of the richest overnight cards in the track’s history, boasting over $175,000 in purses.

Outlawofthevalley defeated his nemesis Wabanaki to take his third Maine Sire Stakes victory of the season, placing him firmly atop the three-year-old male trotter leaderboard. 

The Pine Tree State-bred and sired trotters made their final appearances at Cumberland Raceway before the series starts its summer-long tour of Maine’s pari-mutuel fair circuit, with Outlawofthevalley taking a new 2:00.4 record to bring on the road with him.

As the wings folded in the $15,166 sophomore trot, driver Kevin Switzer Jr. wasted little time in taking command of the field as Hesalilnaughty jumped into the two-hole and then misbehaved and jumped off stride. As the field approached the :29.2 first quarter, Wabanaki (Ivan Davies) inherited the catbird seat and gave chase.  Stealin Money (Nick Graffam) sat closely in third.

When the field set upon the 1:01.1 half-mile marker, a headstrong Wabanaki was not interested in sitting on a helmet and assumed a partial pocket through the paddock turn.  Down the backside, Davies committed to pulling the right line and set Wabanaki into gear to catch the leader.  But Switzer Jr. would have none of that as he let out a notch on Outlawofthevalley and the pair scooted off past a 1:30.1 third panel and finished the job at the wire.

Although closing valiantly, the 1-5 favourite Wabanaki could not catch his foe, who won by a measured length and paid $7.80 to win. Stealin Money finished third.

Trained by Marc Tardif for owner/breeder Leighton Property, the son of Pembroke Slugger picked up the sixth win of his career, pushing his bankroll to $68,410.  

The $14,727 Maine Sire Stakes for three-year-old trotting fillies was won easily by Wild Ending and trainer/driver Ivan Davies. Completing a wire-to-wire score in 2:04.3, the daughter of Boy Band equalled her lifetime best. Owned by Anita Anastosopolous and bred by the late Mike Andrew, she earned her third stakes victory of the season while paying $2.20 to win as the odds-on favourite.  Another Adventure (Kevin Switzer Jr.) finished second and B R Glory (Wally Watson) was third.

Freshman trotters also participated in the blockbuster Cumberland closing day card, with the filly trotters battling in the $14,367 opener. Previously undefeated two-year-old My Saving Grace (Mark Athearn) cut the fractions, but it was Pembroke Breeze who overtook the lead in the final strides and picked up her first stakes victory and a new 2:06 race record for driver Heath Campbell and trainer Valerie Grondin. Owned and bred by Bill Varney, the daughter of Pembroke Slugger doubled her lifetime earnings to $14,366 in the process. She paid $15.20 for the upset. The 1-9 favourite, My Saving Grace, finished second by half a length with Bernies Legacy (Ivan Davies) third.

Trainer/driver Valerie Grondin won the early $14,146 freshman colt trot with Chipper Dale in 2:09.1, giving her a training sweep of the baby races, and giving that son of Shake It Off Lindy his third consecutive victory. Chipper Dale is owned by breeder Lynn-Marie Plouffe. Carrabassett (Mark Athearn) finished second and Pembroke Will (Heath Campbell) was third.

Bruce Ranger maintained his position atop the driver standings through the Spring-Summer Meet, finishing with 54 wins.  Kevin Switzer Jr. was second with 48 while Nick Graffam (37), Drew Campbell (36) and Aaron Hall (35) rounded out the top five.  The leading trainers were Jeff Deslandes (22) and Chris Lefebvre (21), with Eric Bickmore, Sara Harrington and Benson Merrill each with 15.

Racing resumes for the Cumberland Fair on Sept. 24 for a seven-day meet.  First Tracks Cumberland’s extended winter pari-mutuel meeting starts Nov. 5 and runs through Dec. 24.

On Monday, Aug. 7, the Maine Sire Stakes program transitions to the fair circuit with racing at Topsham and continue will all the pacing divisions through Aug. 12.  The third week in August brings the monsters of the midway up to Skowhegan for another full week of Maine harness racing at its finest.

(With files from First Tracks Cumberland)

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