Cumberland, ME — Driver Nick Graffam didn’t let a little thing like the eight hole and odds of 49-1 get in the way of victory. The reinsman went from last to first with Sixby Hanover in a thrilling stretch drive to score in the second race at Cumberland on Friday (April 21), resulting in a $100.60 winning ticket.
The 5-year-old Pet Rock gelding trailed the field through opening fractions of :28.1 and :59.1. At the three-quarter pole he was still positioned dead last, but was parked and moving, back six lengths from temposetting War Daddy (Dan Deslandes) in 1:28.1.
As the field entered the head of the stretch, Graffam had reduced the margin to 3-1/4 lengths and was gaining ground with every stride. With a strong closing kick, Sixby Hanover used a :29.3 final quarter to win by a quarter-length in a 1:59 blanket finish. War Daddy finished second and Riproy (Gary Mosher) was third.
Owned by Ivory Pine Syndicate and trained by Nick’s dad, Mike Graffam, Sixby Hanover surprised everyone but his connections to pick up the 16th win of his career.
By the end of the day, Nick Graffam had moved two wins closer to the 1,000 win threshold, now at 978.
Other double digit winners on the day’s card came in race four, Shaw Town (Wally Watson, $11.60); race five, Rockin Lisa (Bruce Ranger, $26.00); race seven, Denver Seelster (Walter Case Jr., $20.00); and race 10, CBF Star Power (Mosher, $19.60).
The Spring Fling Late Closer Series #1 went postward with two $6,000 divisions which will give the top eight money earners the opportunity to compete for a $15,000 final purse next Friday (April 28).
The first division was won by PBR Street Gang (Ranger) in 1:56.2, where the veteran reinsman enjoyed a perfect garden spot drive to victory with his new acquisition. Racing from the barn of Ranger’s wife Mary, PBR Street Gang is owned by their nom de course The Starter’s Call. The 5-year-old son of JK Endofanera paid $6.60 to win. Infinite Symbol A (Kevin Switzer Jr.) cut the mile and had to settle for second; Ira Chief (Graffam) got his hopples and his form back to be third.
The second Spring Fling #1 went to heavy 1-9 favorite Alex Having Fun (Aaron Hall) in 1:56.2, who drew off by 9-1/2 lengths to capture the $6,000 elimination co-feature. Owned and trained by Kimberly Vafiades, the 6-year-old son of Rock N Roll Heaven is new to the states this year and his connections. Seeley Man (Switzer) finished second; Bolt Ruler (Ranger) was third. Both are eligible to return for the $15,000 final next week.
Ranger picked up three wins on the card and is inching closer and closer to his historic 10,000 win benchmark. Now at 9,978, he will become just the 19th driver in the history of harness racing in North America to eclipse that lofty plateau.
Wagering showed another big increase for the third day of Cumberland’s Spring meeting. Bettors pushed $188,482 through the windows, which was up approximately $66,000 from the same date last year, despite two fewer races.
Racing continues on Saturday (April 22) which features three Winners Over $10,000 handicaps vying for $6,000 in rewards each. In addition, an ownership entry gets the early favorite status in the nine-horse field for the lone $7,500 leg of the Spring Fling #2 for TM 72 pacers, carded as race eight.
Looking ahead, the public can watch and wager on the 149th renewal of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday (May 6) at the Fairgrounds. Last year, First Tracks Cumberland had a local fan hit big on a “hunch” wager placed on longshot winner Rich Strike.
Live harness racing from First Tracks Cumberland continues throughout the Spring and early Summer months with regular racing on Friday and Saturday each weekend. First post remains 3:15 p.m. (EDT) during the extended pari-mutuel meeting, which runs through Aug. 5.
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