Farmington, ME – Everything old seemed new again on Friday (Sept. 22) as veteran reinsmen, Walter Case, Jr and Bruce Ranger, hooked up in an epic display of skill, grit, and determination in the opening event at the Farmington Fair.
Case, with 11,303 career wins, and Ranger, with 10,190 top tallies, have long been considered among the elite drivers in harness racing history. Boasting driving titles earned under the bright lots of the big league tracks of Yonkers, Northfield, Pompano, Plainridge, Rockingham and Foxboro, these two have been lauded as kingpins over a vast stretch of area from the Mississippi River east.
Beginning in the late 1970s, they both cut their teenage teeth at the fairground and pari-mutuel tracks of their native state-of-Maine before taking their abundant talents on the road. Now, in their early 60s, they have returned to their homeland, still brimming with talent and still anxious to win and that shared desired for success was on full display during Friday’s first race at Farmington.
Case got away third with K D Overdrive while Ranger found himself sixth after escaping the clutches of the second tier with Lenny’s Pride And Joy. Both seemed content to track the the expected, but sometimes faltering early speed of Mighty American N (Dan Deslandes), as the first race field sprung from behind the starting gate.
Rounding the three-eighth’s bend, Ranger revealed his strategy, pulling from the pylons to successfully flush Case from rail as their combined 21,493 career wins set up the outer-flow. The daring duo successfully drafted, making steady progress toward the top, and were in prime position when the inner-flow collapsed at the three-quarter-mile marker as they slingshotted to the lead.
Ranger swooped at the top of the lane, joining Case in lockstep as they entered the stretch and in the blink of an eye, their continence completely changed. A look of stern determination suddenly appeared on both their faces. Their bodies tensed, ready to call upon reflexes that have long been honed from years spent in the trenches, and the skills and determination which have made them great champions were once again on full display.
So intent was their focus that the casual observer would have been forgiven to think they were driving in a major stakes race rather than a Trackmaster 60 event, but when the battle had ended it was Case over Ranger by a neck as K D Overdrive was propelled to the wire on top.
Ironically, despite their credentials, Case was dismissed at 5-1 while Ranger was ignored by the punters to the tune of 7-1 odds. The true believers rejoiced, however, when the two harness racing giants combined to produce a hefty $108.40 ($2) exacta return, proving once again that it pays to heed history, both on and off the track.
Case and Ranger, along with an outstanding driving colony, will once again be appearing at the Farmington Fair on Saturday (Sept. 23) as the weeklong agricultural exhibition arrives at the conclusion of their 182nd season. First post for the Saturday card will be at 2 p.m. (EDT)
The state-of-Maine harness racing circuit travels to the Cumberland Fair beginning on Sunday (Sept. 24) for their annual weeklong meeting. First post for Cumberland’s Sunday card is slated for 1:30 p.m. (EDT).