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Maine Amateurs Race, Donate To Charity

Published: July 23, 2021 11:54 am ET

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C.K.G. Billings Series founder Peter Gerry once called amateur racing the “Greatest Side Show in Harness Racing.” But the strong segment of the sport has come a long way since the meagre $2,000 purses of the 1990s.

“Amateur racing is as strong as ever!” noted Hall of Fame publicist John Manzi, who covers the events from New York to Florida and many points in between. “These guys mean business. Many of them own their own horses, and the public loves betting on them because they know that they are very competitive.”

Often held before the card at some pari-mutuel facilities, these events are embraced at other tracks like Cumberland Raceway, where the Maine Amateur Driving Club (MADC) races take centre stage and are fully supported by the race office.

“We love amateur racing. It’s a great tradition and (it) helps promote the sport. These guys are eager to compete; they want to race every week,” noted Cumberland racing secretary Marc Reynolds. “The amateur club guys have been great to deal with and are passionate about their racehorses.”

Founded in 2002 by Buddy Burke, the Maine Amateur Driving Club has competed around the Maine commercial tracks and pari-mutuel fair circuit for the last two decades, and is now coordinated by Buddy’s son, Joe.

The elder Burke got the idea when the Billings came to town to race at the New England tracks. Joe Burke drove the family’s trotter Fox Valley Allboy in the local races, now known as the Delvin Miller Harness Drivers Association, whose drivers’ fees all get donated back to the Harness Racing Museum & Hall of Fame. Burke enjoyed the event so much that he decided to start his own club for local participants.

“We have a great group of 20 or more guys competing, and they are eager to get in the bike each week. They range in age from 18 to 80 and come from all over the state of Maine,” stated Burke, himself a successful driver.

Each year, the club selects a number of groups and organizations to race for. At the end of the meet, they donate funds from their accrued drivers’ fees. This year, the MADC will donate in excess of $2,000 overall to such organizations and causes as: the family of Ashley Brown, Eddie Davis Jr., Pacing for a Cure, Travis Mills Foundation, Homeless Animal Rescue Team of Maine, Maine State Society for the Protection of Animals, and the Standardbred Retirement Foundation.

Each driver will be competing individually for a particular group, and all the owner-drivers in the $7,500 final have pledged to personally donate an additional $750 to their specific charitable organization if they find the winner’s circle.

The $7,500 MADC final is carded as race seven on Saturday (July 24) and is restricted to the top seven point earners from the previous eight-week series. The field is as follows:

Post Position – Horse – Driver (**Owner) – Trainer

1. Putnams Storm – Robert Nadeau** – Robert Nadeau
2. Hoboken Hanover – Charles Eaton III** – Charles Eaton III
3. Rose Run Slider – Derek Howes – Mark Harris
4. Led Schnepplin - Michael McGee** – Aaron Hall
5. Stonebridge Grand – Joseph Burke ** - Joseph Burke
6. Velocity Sub Z – Benson Merrill – Judson Merrill
7. Rocknrolwilneverdie – Todd Whitney – Dan Deslandes

In addition to the $7,500 final, there is also a $4,000 MADC consolation for the eighth- through 14th-place drivers in the point standings, carded as race five.

All MADC winners receive a ‘swag bucket’ trophy of stable supplies on behalf of the Windham and North Yarmouth Blue Seal Feed stores, as well as a special gift, compliments of the Maine Harness Horsemen’s Association.

Also on the card are two $9,700 (est.) divisions of the Maine Standardbred Breeders Stakes for three-year-old pacing fillies. The first division shall be contested as a non-betting race, slated for 2 p.m., before the regular post time of 2:30 p.m. The second division is carded as race one and features several of the top sophomore females in the seasonal program.

(First Tracks Cumberland)

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