Cumberland, ME — Muscle Gene took the $5,500 top trot at Cumberland on Friday (June 9) afternoon, winning his second start in row at the Southern Maine oval. In keeping with previous statements, the horse has done nothing but improve since arriving back in the Pine Tree State in mid-May.
When the wings folded on the Wes Brown starting gate owner/driver Ron Cushing was content to let the ‘leavers leave’ and take a seat in the middle of the pack. Me Three (Kevin Switzer Jr.) took the early lead with Thruway (Shawn Thayer) immediately pulling and re-taking command before the :29.2 opening panel.
As the field settled in to round the second turn Thruway (12-1) continued to set the pace with Me Three (6-1) second. Warrawee Preferred (Wally Watson, 12-1) was up close in third with Cushing and Muscle Gene (7-5) sitting comfortably in fourth position.
As soon as the field got to the head of the stretch heading to the half, Me Three went off stride and left the course. With the remaining combatants stretched out past the :59.3 half-mile marker, Dave Ingraham pulled first over with Midnight Zette (2-1).
Following the third turn, Ingraham had ranged up enough to flush the cover of Cushing and Muscle Gene who pulled at the head of the backstretch going into a 1:29.2 third quarter. Stacked up around the final turn with Thruway’s lead diminishing, Muscle Gene trotted powerfully to the front and never looked back.
Tripping the timer in 2:00.1, the 5-year-old son of Musclesprinctonian paid $4.80 to win. Trained by Heidi Gibbs, wife and partner of owner/driver Cushing, it was the 11th victory of the horse’s career and equaled his seasonal best clocking. Midnight Zette closed swiftly to be second; Warrawee Preferred was third.
Another local horse with his second win in a row was See You Friday, who did just that. Driven by Bruce Ranger for trainer Chris Lefebvre, the 9-year-old son of Western Terror took the overland route to take the featured $6,000 conditioned pace in 1:56.3.
Second over at the half, while three-deep at the third panel, See You Friday saw his connections in the winner’s circle of both Maine racetracks in a span of ten days. Owned by Michelle Lefebvre, it was the 22nd win of his career, and he paid $9.40. Call Me Maverick (Mike Stevenson) finished second; Four Finger Floyd (Nick Graffam) was third.
In other news, Steve Wilson took the second race $4,400 trot with Muscle Star, a horse he co-owns with trainer Mike Cushing. Paying $18.40 to win from post seven, it was a ‘blanket’ photo finish for place with Mo Mo Fashion, J-S For Justice and Foxy Trottin Stick inches apart. The 7-year-old son of Muscle Hill demonstrated, in more ways than one, that sometimes ‘back class’ prevails.
Nick Graffam had three wins on the program. Bruce Ranger had a pair of victories, both trained by leading conditioner Chris Lefebvre. All source wagering exceeded $160,000 for the afternoon card, which was double the amount bet on the same date last year.
Saturday’s (June 10) program carries 11 races, and is highlighted by the $1,500,000 Belmont Stakes. The track offers Belmont viewing and programs, as well as all of the relevant wagering choices, which will continue throughout the summer. Every Saturday Cumberland will host racing from Belmont or Saratoga, culminating with the Meadowlands on Hambletonian Day (Aug. 5) and a Hambo hat giveaway.
The featured live race is the $5,500 top pace, with local favorite Ry’s Red Rocket (Mark Athearn) trying to get off the schneid from the pylon position. Local betting options include a 50-cent trifecta on every race, as well as the usual assortment of exotic wagers with low 16 percent takeout scattered throughout the card.
Live harness racing continues at Cumberland throughout the Spring and early Summer months with regular racing on Friday and Saturday each weekend. First post is slated for 3:15 p.m. (EDT) during the extended pari-mutuel meeting, which runs through Aug. 5.
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