Drew Campbell wins 5,000th career race
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When last seen at Scarborough Downs, Drew Campbell was busy piecing together a dominant six-win performance last Sunday, an effort that left the man in orange and black six wins shy of registering the 5,000th victory lap of his prodigious career. After a week spent campaigning at Bangor Raceway and Plainridge Park, Campbell fittingly reappeared at the Downs, the venue where he has enjoyed the majority of his successes, needing just one win more to cross the magical threshold.
With drives in 10 of Saturday’s 12 races, Campbell seemed destined to record the benchmark win in front of the home fans, but he dramatically kept the large Belmont Stakes Day crowd in a general state of suspense until breaking through to the winner’s ranks with an eighth race victory behind a recent Maritimes import named Woodmere Nightlife.
Campbell, whose lineage is also steeped in the harness racing traditions of the Maritimes, sat off the pace with his charge before tipping three deep up the backstretch and powering to an open-length romp, as the fans roared their approval.
A perennial powerhouse at the Downs and a regular contender for the North American UDR Championship, Campbell, who counts multiple local driving championships among his accomplishments, was joined in the winner’s circle by a multitude of his fellow drivers and horsemen, as is the tradition in Maine, to celebrate his latest accomplishment.
Campbell wasn’t the only headliner on the Scarborough Downs card on Saturday as a trio of Invitational class events were carded, charged with the goal of showcasing the crème de la crème of the local harness scene in front of the large crowd expected on Belmont Stakes Day.
The goal was surely exceeded when driver Ron Cushing steered Bettors Fire N to a brilliant victory in the $10,000 renewal of the historic Dirigo Pace, stopping the clock in blistering 1:53, while equaling the third fastest mile ever recorded in the 70-year history of Scarborough Downs.
The effort was just two-fifths of a second off the all-time track record recorded by JJs Jet in the 2018 edition of the Mid-Summer Classic and just a fifth of a second off the only other horse to ever eclipse the 1:53 mark, Hotrod Falcon who set the longtime overall standard in 1993’s Presidents Pace.
Zack Lee who set torrid fractions throughout the mile placed second while All Artist rallied for third.
Not content with a mere one win day, Cushing continued his domination of the local invitational scene on Saturday, scoring a convincing victory in the $10,000 Shady Sabrina Distaff with ShezSugarSweet A, who stepped away to a zippy 1:57.1 top-class score.
The win was the seventh of the season for the Heidi Gibbs-trained mare who now boasts four wins and four runner-up placings from her last eight starts, all coming since rejoining the New England circuit in mid-April.
Western Stepp settled for the bridesmaid share after cutting reasonable fractions, while Amethyst Seelster finished third.
A Maine-bred trotter claimed top honors in the inaugural edition of the $10,000 Obrigado Trot, as Pembroke Castaway and driver Heath Campbell expertly controlled the tempo and tenor while piking the course and eking out a narrow final advantage over a hard charging Cherry Crown Jewel who fell a mere neck short at the wire. Northern Skyway finished third.
Named for a native-bred trotter who went undefeated in Maine Sire Stakes action and then went on to make a name for himself in major North American stakes, the Obrigado Invitational produced a mile that was timed in 1:57.2, just two-fifths of a second off Scarborough’s overall track record. (Scarborough)