Farmington, ME — One of this summer’s seemingly never-ending frontal systems brought more, unnecessary downpours to Maine on Monday (Sept. 18) but the races went on as scheduled at the Farmington Fair.
The track was rated sloppy, two bucket baths would become the order of the day for the afternoon’s combatants, and the crowd was certainly on the lighter side of scarce. But as is a constant along Maine’s northern harness racing circuit, numbered among the attendees were Benson Merrill, his wife Lauren, and any number of their nine little children to add their own brand of enthusiasm to the day’s festivities.
Benson Merrill is a product of generations of harness racing enthusiasts. His father, Judson Merrill, still races horses in Maine, as does his grandfather, Clayton Merrill Jr. And his great-uncle Rodney Grady was a well known driver/trainer at many racing venues along the eastern seaboard, so all told, it just seems natural that Benson too would enjoy success along the backstretches of Maine.
Success came to the affable Merrill on Monday at Farmington as he sent three horses to the gate, named himself as driver, and won convincingly with two.
Art Of Endurance (2:04.1-$10.00) found firm footing in the first-over position while grinding out a last to first epic. The win was the first of the season for the 5-year-old son of Artspeak.
Go Sandy Go (2:02.3-$3.20) cruised the pike route to a half-length margin as the 8-year-old veteran daughter of Roddy’s Bags Again secured the 32nd win of her career.
While the two wins differed in both style and tempo, the constant after both contests was the family gathering in the winner’s circle.
Like Munchkins reappearing after Dorothy landed, tiny blond-headed kids seemed to appear from nowhere in their hurry to celebrate their father’s victories. Some ran behind their mother as they made their way across the infield from the backstretch. Others crossed the track from the grandstand side, while more still sprinted from their perches along the outside rail in the first turn.
Some held the horse, some helped hold the trophy blanket, and the rest joined mom and dad while grinning happily, as the track photographer documented the scene of family bliss.
Harness racing provides opportunities for industry and economic opportunity, but on a more basic level — and perhaps unique to the Standardbred breed — harness racing remains a sport and vocation that joins one generation to the next and brings families together.
Especially along the fairground circuit of Maine and as epitomized by the Merrill family clan.
Harness racing will be featured every day except Thursday this week at Farmington Fair with post time slated daily at 2 p.m. (EDT).