Maine crowns sires stakes champions
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A large and enthusiastic crowd lined the raceway on Saturday (10/14) as the finals of Maine Sire Stakes program were contested on a picture perfect mid-autumn afternoon at Scarborough Downs, for total purses in excess of $370,000.
Like the day itself, the major headlines going into the finals belonged to Pembroke Perfect as the three-year-old wunderkind put her twelve race seasonal undefeated streak firmly on the line The headlines following the day of competition still belonged to Pembroke Perfect as the powerhouse pacer cruised to the filly championship in an unhurried 1:57 front-running romp, and capped off an extraordinary day that would see her connections secure three of the four divisional championships.
The daughter of Western Maverick-Perfect Launch grabbed the lion's share of the $86,183 purse while pushing her seasonal bankroll over the $100,000 plateau and her career tally in excess of $163,000 - All monies earned while racing exclusively in Maine.
Driven by Heath Campbell for trainer Valerie Grondin, the filly scored her 21st career win from 23 lifetime starts, much to the delight of co-owners William Varney of Bangor, Maine and Lynne-Marie Plouffe of Saco, Maine. Ms. Plouffe was also the filly's breeder.
"Bill and I have owned a few together in recent years and have enjoyed quite a bit of success in our partnership" Lynne-Marie Plouffe remarked. "By the time the foals are weaned we generally make our decision on which ones to keep. Bill wants more horses than I can afford but we jump in together on a few. We picked one out this year. He's a full brother to Pembroke Perfect. Hopefully we get just as lucky with him."
Spoxy's Girl (N. Graffam) finished second while Persephonie (D. Ingraham) was third.
Prince Of The Forest capped off a brilliant late summer run on Saturday as the son of Baron Biltmore-Barbra Ann coasted gate to wire timed in 1:58.2, to claim top honors in the $85,928 colt pacing division. The win was the seventh consecutive score for the Kevin Switzer trained and driven combatant; extending a streak that began at the Downs back on August 27th, and also represented the colt's 15th career victory lap.
"We got lucky to develop a colt as nice as this one" Kevin Switzer said, "It's a strong sire stakes program here in Maine. Well, we've kind of slacked off on the breeding part; we need more mares bred; but its a long program with many legs raced over lots of different tracks for good purses."
"You've got to keep your horse strong over a long season to be effective and the crew at the stable did just that. He battled a sore foot this week, they went right to work on him, and he responded to their TLC. Sometimes harness racing really is a team sport."
"He's out of the stakes champion Barbra Ann who we also bred and raced" added co-owner Denise Mcnitt, "I swore I'd never breed a double Maine-bred but I did ... And he's awesome!"
Prince Of The Forest was bred by and owned in partnership by KDK Standarbreds of Harrington, Delaware and co-owned by Anthony Sivik, Jr of Orono, Maine.
Silver Chrome (N. Graffam) was second while Mic Woodrow (D. Campbell) finished third.
Pembroke Conifer entered the $86,172 filly trotting final off an extremely light race schedule which saw the daughter of Noble Venture-Wild Pine Princess head to the post only three times prior to the biggest engagement of her career. The strategy proved spot on though as the filly responded to driver Heath Campbell's cajoling, executing a flawless front end strategy, and stopping the clock victoriously timed in 2:04.
"I knew it was time to cut her loose" driver Heath Campbell remarked, "She had a couple of tighteners under belt and she was ready. It was a long bumpy road with this filly this year but the cream rose to the top today."
Pembroke Conifer is trained by Valerie Grondin for the ownership partnership of William Varney of Bangor, Maine and Lynn-Marie Plouffe of Saco, Maine. The filly was also bred by Ms. Plouffe.
Noble One (I. Davies) finished second while Breezin (K. Ireland) secured third.
Pembroke Morgan overcame a close examination of the photo-finish print to post the narrowest of margins in the $86,156 colt trotting final, after closing gamely in the lane to track down a determined Happy Hooligan (N. Graffam) by mere whiskers at the wire. Heath Campbell claimed one of his three sire stakes scores by strategically gaining ground in small increments. During three distinct portions of the race, he launched a swoop and tuck strategy, which proved masterfully brilliant in the end, with the clock proclaiming the winning time of 2:00.1.
Happy Hooligan just fell short in second while Prydwen (I. Davies) got up for third.
When asked about Pembroke Morgan's powerful closing kick, Campbell modestly and proudly replied, "He's a pretty good horse, huh?" And when complimented on his aggressive driving strategy he responded with a grin and his usual wry sense of humor, "Yeah, that was a pretty good drive too, huh?"
Good enough on both counts for trainer Valerie Grondin to claim three sire stakes championships on the day for owner/breeder William Varney. And certainly good enough for the Grondin, Campbell and Varney combination to cement their standing as one of the most effective sire stakes combinations in the history of Maine's state-bred program.