Cumberland, ME — In Tuesday’s (May 18) opener at Cumberland, Sarah’s Lilly had a repeat performance, taking the top fillies and mares class on back-to-back Tuesdays. That, in and of itself, is not necessarily headline news. But the fact her regular driver Bruce Ranger is now leading all drivers at all three commercial New England harness tracks, could be somewhat of a unique occurrence.
“This has never happened before, even in the old Bay State Raceway era,” noted long-time Maine presiding judge Charles Malia. “I do recall Ranger being the top reinsman at Plainridge, Rockingham and Pompano in the year 2000, but never at all three New England tracks simultaneously.”
The Maine icon’s day started with guiding the 5-year-old daughter of He’s Gorgeous to a wire-to-wire, 1:56 victory in the $6,000 Winners Over Filly and Mare class. Sarah’s Lilly is trained by Benson Merrill for owner Moo Coo Inc. and breeder Irwin Kaplan. She now has four wins, two seconds, and one third in 12 seasonal outings, and has picked up nearly $10,000 in just the last four weeks.
But then Ranger racked up wins in the third, sixth and ninth races on the Tuesday card, placing him comfortably on top of the Cumberland drivers colony with 13 victories and a whopping .415 UDR over the first five race cards of the fledgling meet. Heath Campbell is second with seven trips to the winner’s circle, with Dan Deslandes in the third spot with six wins.
Born in Portland, Maine, Ranger is now on the top of the leaderboard at Bangor with 14 wins, Cumberland with 13, and Plainridge with 36 victories. This season he has a total of 65 wins and a .365 UDR.
An energetic 61-years-young, Ranger won his first race in 1979. He quickly became no stranger to the winner’s circle as Ranger now has 9,430 trips to victory lane and has earned more than $39 million in purses. He sits 23rd on the all-time drivers by wins list. Ranger is also the all-time leading dash winner at Pompano Park and is a member of both the New England and Florida Halls of Fame.
According to USTA statistics, Ranger has been behind the starting gate some 46,000 times, and has enjoyed several multi-million dollar seasons. Perhaps his best season was 2004 when he had 569 wins and earned $2.4 million, but he has had over a dozen years with more than 300 victories.
Always modest, Ranger is quick to give the credit of his success to the horses he drives and the trainers that utilize him. He took a short break a few years ago and worked as a starter around the Maine fair tracks. But the roar of the crowd and the sound of the hoof beats were too loud to ignore and he picked right up where he left off.
In the Tuesday co-feature at Cumberland, driver Drew Campbell was not afraid to give Airspinder plenty of air to find victory in the $6,000 Winners Over Pace.
Parked the entire second circuit, the 5-year-old son of No Spin Zone was comfortable while first over into a 1:25.3 third quarter. Campbell had Airspinder on top by three lengths at the head of the stretch and held off a late charge by Rocksapatriot (Dave Ingraham) to win by a quarter-length in 1:55.3. Pacesetter Twomacsoneshadow (Kevin Switzer Jr.) finished third.
Airspinder paced the second fastest mile of the meet and took a new seasonal mark in the process, while inching closer to amassing $100,000 in lifetime earnings. Bred, owned and trained in the Pine Tree State, Airspinder is conditioned by Chris Lefebvre for owners Michelle Lefebvre and Brian Aaskov. He paid $7.00 to win.
Racing from Cumberland is presented live each Tuesday and Saturday, through July 31. First post 4:15 p.m.
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