Walter Case Jr. wins 3 in return at Scarborough
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Walter Case Jr., who was making his first driving appearance in nearly nine years on Saturday, showed little sign of rust while winning three races on a picture perfect mid-autumn afternoon at Scarborough Downs.
Case, a state of Maine native and the sport’s eighth leading dash winner of all time with 11,041 wins, was recently granted a provisional driver’s license by the Maine Harness Racing Commission, after being rebuffed in other jurisdictions, clearing the way for his first raceway starts since November of 2008.
A large crowd of both veteran and potential new fans thronged the trackside apron as the first bugle sounded; the crowd falling eerily silent in anticipation, as the pacers were introduced over the track’s PA system. When Case’s name was announced the throngs erupted in a spontaneous and extended ovation of cheers and well wishes, so loud and heartfelt, that the track announcer was forced to pause his introduction of the field until the tribute faded.
Case, who seemed caught off-guard and genuinely moved by the reception, turned to acknowledge the recognition by waving toward the fans and vocally thanking them for their support as he scored his pacer in front of the stands.
"The ovation brought me to tears," said veteran racetrack announcer Lloyd Johnson, "It was a genuine and unexpected outpouring and the sort of demonstration you seldom see at a harness track. I’ve been calling races for 50 years now and I can’t recall anything quite like it."
The fans, anxious to cheer Case to victory, didn’t have to wait past the afternoon’s second race to begin their celebrations. They roared their approval as he tipped the pacer Real Yankee out of the pocket and on to the lead approaching the Five-eighths pole. Their cheers reached crescendo status as Casey drew upon his long stored arsenal of talents to keep the pacer brave through the lane, holding off a determined inside charge from Ms Lynette and driver Mitch Cushing.
Walter’s sister, Kelly Case, while leading a delegation of family and friends onto the track to greet her brother following the race, turned and beckoned to the fans on the apron, "Come on everybody! Come on out to meet Casey in the winner’s circle!"
The track announcer repeated Kelly’s invitation and dozens responded by making the march across the track, while dozens more waited to cheer Casey as he exited the winner’s circle following the ceremony.
"I just want to thank everyone who worked so hard to make today possible" a humble and grateful Case said, "The reaction from the fans and everybody was amazing. It feels so good to be back racing in Maine."
Case later tallied wins with the pacers Heart Breaking and Arsenal.
The fans’ response to the return of Walter Case Jr on Saturday serves as a reminder of the excitement that harness racing can still generate.
"The turnout and enthusiasm that was evident at the track on Saturday pleasantly exceeded our expectations," said Downs’ vice president Denise Terry, "We thank the fans for their support of both Casey and the track, and we pledge to do all we can to build upon this very successful day." (Scarborough Downs)