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Case Listed To Drive Saturday

Published: June 25, 2021 9:29 am ET

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Following a three-year absence, driver Walter Case Jr. is slated to make his return to the sulky in two races Saturday (June 26) at Cumberland Raceway.

A popular driver during the 1980s through the early 2000s, ‘Casey’ has won over 11,000 races and $43 million in purse earnings. Currently 10th in all-time wins among drivers, he last saw action exclusively in Maine during 2017, where he had 11 wins in 53 starts. Walter Case Jr. enjoyed his most successful season in 1998, when he won a then-record 1,077 races in a single season, the first driver ever to reach a four-figure dash win milestone.

Case is slated to drive at First Tracks Cumberland in the fourth race with Personnel Space, and in the 10th with Arsenal.

Trotting mare Cherry Crown Jewel will try to defend her throne in the featured $6,500 Winners Over. While her past conquests have earned her the outside post position six in the opener, her connections remain upbeat and undeterred.

In fact, regular driver Matty “Ice” Athearn was quick to sing the praise of the stable’s ‘Crown Jewel.’

“She can do it anyway she has to. She’s always been very capable,” said the 22-year-old Maine native. A top-10 reinsman wherever he competes, the Athearn is just three wins from third place in the Cumberland standings, and is in sixth place among the competitive drivers' colony at Plainridge.

“She enjoys moving toward the front end, or she can come from off the pace. She is very versatile.”

The nine-year-old daughter of RC Royalty, from the Conway Hall dam Nowerland Kristen, Cherry Crown Jewel has 36 lifetime wins and over $208,000 in earnings. Having won two of her last three starts at Cumberland, with a second-place finish in between, she has never missed a cheque at the iconic fairgrounds.

A privileged member of the royal family, trainer Gretchen Athearn, Matty’s mom, says that the mare is, “our barn princess.”

“Everyone knows when she is in the barn because she kicks and squeals and causes quite the commotion. That’s why we race her out of the field. At the farm, she is like a kitten.”

A model of consistency, she has earned $9,530 in her last five starts for owner by Bill Phipps of nearby Yarmouth. Her trainer Gretchen Athearn added, “She’s not really allowed in the barn. We only bring her in to train ... which is rare. We have had her nearly six years, since the end of her three-year-old season. And she’s been our ‘good girl’ ever since.”

Two other horses will attempt to dethrone the ‘Crown Princess,’ having each won in this class over the last several weeks. Bruizn (post 5) and Andy Harrington had the mare on their helmet two weeks ago and never relinquished the lead. Caulfield (post 4, Mike Stevenson) has three Winners Over victories in his last six starts and will be tough from the inside advantage, if he behaves.

Two divisions of the popular Maine Amateur Driving Club (MADC) are on tap for Saturday’s card as races six and eight. The $4,800 top division pits June 12 winner Valerie Grondin driving a new horse (post 6, Middle Aged Crazy) against Michael Girouard (post 4, Rose Run Slider), who is making his seasonal amateur debut. They will have to contend with two of the series points leaders: Todd Whitney (post 7, Rocnrolwilneverdie) and Benson Merrill (post 5, Zampara).

MADC Group B goes postward for $3,800 in race eight, featuring the return of week-one-winner Hoboken Hanover (post 6, Charles ‘Butch’ Eaton) and second of two ‘seasonal debut’ starts for driver Derek Howes (post 4, Ill Call U Later). Veteran Robert Nadeau returns with his own Putnams Storm (post 5) to shake things up, along with Benson Merrill (post 3, Heart Breaking).

(First Tracks Cumberland)

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