Cushing savors Foiled Again's Maine fair win
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But that's where Cushing found himself Monday, in the sulky behind Foiled Again as he faced five foes in the Au Revoir Pace for 14 year olds at Windsor. Much to the delight of the large crowd in attendance, Cushing drove Foiled Again, the 1-5 favorite, to a 1 1/4-length victory in 1:55.4. It was win No. 102 in Foiled Again's illustrious career.
"It was everything I expected," Cushing said. "He doesn't do anything wrong. He's just an absolute class act. I was just doing what I know to do to make a horse go, and going along for the ride with the old man because he knows what he's doing.
"A lot of horses, you have to help them finish the job. When I reminded him at the top of the lane that there was a job left, he hit a whole different gear. That was a cool moment. He knew what his job was and he knew he could finish it, as he has so many times before. That was pretty special."
As he neared the finish line, Cushing lifted his whip to the crowd in celebration.
"Windsor always draws a big crowd, and it's a big harness racing crowd," Cushing said. "They have an understanding of what's going on. It's a noticeable energy.
"I wanted to get the crowd involved. When I tipped my whip everyone started screaming and threw their hands up. That was probably the most electrifying moment. It was pretty awesome."
Fans were invited to join Foiled Again in the winner's circle photo following the race.
"I think most people took advantage of that and got in there," Cushing said. "It was pretty full."
The 20-year-old Cushing, who lives in Albion, Maine, and is the son of driver Ron Cushing, began driving in 2014. Last year, he won 92 races in 681 drives. So far this year, he has won 147 races in the exact same number of drives.
When Cushing heard Foiled Again was coming to Maine, he reached out to the horse's connections to thank them.
"I know the importance of that fair and the fan base," Cushing said. "Maine appreciates harness racing. It's a small state in the sense of racetracks, but the appreciation is so great. I knew what it would bring to Maine just to have him here. I was just ecstatic to have him here and watch him in my home state. Driving him never crossed my mind."
A week prior to the race, though, Cushing received the call to drive Foiled Again.
"For (trainer and co-owner) Ron Burke to instill his trust in me with a horse like Foiled Again, that was an honor in itself," said Cushing, who drove one horse previously for Burke, in February at the Meadowlands. "That was almost as much of an honor as sitting behind him in a race."
Foiled Again has won 102 of 319 career races and earned $7.59 million. Only 14 pacers have reached 100 wins in the past 40 years and few in that group competed at the level of Foiled Again, who has 21 stakes victories worth at least $100,000 to his credit. Hall of Famer Rambling Willie is the only other pacer in the 100-win club with more than $2 million in purses.
In 2011, at the age of 7, Foiled Again was Pacer of the Year. He is the only pacer older than the age of 4 ever to receive the honor. Additionally, Foiled Again is one of only two horses, along with Rambling Willie, to receive three consecutive Dan Patch Awards for best older male pacer.
Foiled Again's accomplishments and popularity were acknowledged beyond harness racing in 2015 when he was honored by Breyer with a model created in his likeness. The gelding is owned by Burke Racing, the Weaver Bruscemi partnership, and JJK Stables.
All harness racing horses face mandatory retirement at age 15, so this is Foiled Again's final season. His farewell tour next heads to Scioto Downs in central Ohio on Saturday, followed by visits this month to Freehold Raceway on Sept. 15, the Delaware County Fair in Ohio on Sept. 19-20, Batavia Downs on Sept. 21, and Shenandoah Downs on Sept. 29.
Cushing said Foiled Again's trip to Windsor will always be a special moment in his life.
"That's something you'll never forget," Cushing said. "No matter how fast you go, or how much money you go for, that horse just makes it all." (Ken Weingartner/USTA)