Scarborough Downs was once again privileged to host the 2-year-old championship round of the Maine Sires Stakes program on Sunday. Nearly $250,000 in purse money was on the line as the races were contested on a picture-perfect late summer afternoon in southern Maine.
The most emotional victory of the day came in the $52,334 colt trotting final as Maine Cast, the last colt ever bred by the late Roderick Cushing, scored the upset victory in 2:06.1.
Rounding the final turn, as driver Mike Cushing pulled the trotter to the outside, the cheers of the fans crescendoed to fever pitch as the reality set in that the sentimental choice could win.
"When we broke this colt, my dad was having a relapse in his battle against leukemia, an emotionally spent Cushing explained. "When he was at the hospital and there was nothing left to do for him, all he wanted to do was go home and see the horses. We brought him to the Farmington fairgrounds where many of his friends turned out to welcome him. With my dad in the back, they drove the ambulance right onto the track. I went a training trip with the colt right behind the ambulance, and the last time my dad saw him was looking out the back window.
There was not a dry eye in the house following Cushing' interview.
Maine Cast, by Current Cast-Lady Lucy Helen H, benefited from the misfortune of heavily favored C C C, who had rolled off stride before the word go, but he did what he needed to do to claim the win, with Cushing raising his whip in victory and in salute to his late father.
Star Studded Cast (Mark Athearn) was second. Pembroke Castaway (Ruel Goodblood Jr.), was third.
Kate At The Gate became the first champion crowned, claiming victory in the $52,111 filly trot final in 2:06.3 with driver Gary Mosher calling the shots for trainer David Crochere. The filly scored the easy victory, her sixth in a row, but not before some anxious moments. Scoring down following the post parade, driver Gary Mosher discovered that the racebike was broken and the duo returned to the paddock for sulky replacement.
"It was pretty scary at first when I discovered the bike was broken, Mosher said. "And with trotting hobbles, you never know where they go when you hook up to a new bike, but thankfully we got it right. She's just a great filly. She does nothing wrong.
Owner Jack Kelley chimed in: "My daughter raised her, my son Paul broke her, and then David Crochere took over. They all did an incredible job. Driver Gary Mosher, I don't know if anyone does better than him in Maine.
Kate At The Gate, by Current Cast-Quote Of The Week, broke well from the gate, quickly inheriting an insurmountable lead before coasting to an open-lengths victory. Shes A Castoff (David Ingraham) was second Mill Site Mille (Mark Athearn) was third.
Big Bad Rose claimed victory in the filly pacing final in 2:03.2, garnering the lion's share of the $52,400 purse offering, as she secured her fifth win of the season, third in a row. The 2-year-old daughter of Baron Biltmore-Gurad The Rose is owned and trained by Donald Dickison of New Brunswick, and was expertly steered to victory by driver Greg Bowden.
As the field sprang from the gate, Fast Pat was hustled to the lead by driver Drew Campbell, speeding to the half in 58.4. Bowden sat patient tracking the early speed then pulling to the outside past the 5/8 mile marker before drawing clear and holding the late chargers at bay.
"She's the model of consistency, Bowden said, "and I'm so happy for the Dickison family. Great connections. Longtime participants in harness racing; I couldn't be happier for them.
"We raised her from a baby, Dickison said. "She's nice to be around, very friendly, and she can go a little bit too. Greg drove her perfect, pulled her at the right time and once she made the lead, we just held our breath from there.
Shady Touch (Michael Cushing) was second; Princess Wave (Heath Campbell) was third.
Fast Del claimed top honors in the $52,461 colt pacing final with driver Gary Mosher exhibiting all of the skills and intuition that have earned him more than 5,500 wins during his driving career, winning in 2:00.1.
Owned by the Ben Bill and Will Stable of Carmel, Maine, the son of Fast Company-Grey Matter secured the pocket journey behind Maynard B, who was part of the powerful Gerald Smith-trained entry. Approaching the half, Blackmalin, the other part of the entry, pulled to the outside in an effort to set up the outer flow. Mosher, recognizing the danger of having both entrymates racing one-two, decided on the unconventional strategy of pulling the pocket at the midway point of the mile.
"I saw him coming and decided to take my chances, said Mosher. "There was no sense waiting, it was all on the line. I'd beaten Maynard B first up before, so I know my colt was capable, and he came through when it counted.
"He came on late, took time to develop, but he's a very nice colt. Look for him to have a great season next year.
Maynard B (Steve Nason) was second; David the Saint (Mark Athearn) was third. (Scarborough Downs)