Cumberland, ME — Mike Stevenson and Matt Athearn stuck around for the season’s final day of harness racing at Cumberland, which boasted an extra 30 percent purse increase, and were both rewarded with three driving victories on the Monday (Dec. 26) 11-race finale. Local and remote bettors also knew value when they saw it, pushing the total all-source handle to a First Tracks Cumberland record of $197,048.
Stevenson wasted little time finding the winner’s circle on the program, scoring a wire-to-wire victory with his own charge Osprey Delta in the opener. The 58-year-old New Brunswick native who now makes Maine his home, is stabled at the Cumberland Fairgrounds, and has a short commute to work each racing day.
Familiar with the track and its myriad of winter conditions, Stevenson was comfortable putting the 7-year-old daughter of Tad The Stud on the front end for the $8,450 Open 2 Trot featured opener. Setting reasonable fractions of :29.1 and :59 to the half, Stevenson was well in command throughout both circuits. Keeping the would-be spoilers at bay into a 1:29.4 third panel, the pair coasted home 1-1/4 length winners in 2:00.1. Broadway Giant (Bruce Ranger) finished second; Kyrie Deo (Mark Athearn) was third.
Trained by Stevenson and owned by Robert Collins’ Steel Ponies LLC, it was the 15th victory of her career and equaled her seasonal best clocking. Osprey Delta paid $18.00 to win.
Stevenson also scored with Virtual Success (1:58.1, $12.20) who is trained by L. Alex MacDonald, and Besidetheseaside A (1:56.4, $21.20), trained and co-owned by Ralph D’Amelio.
Matty ‘Ice’ Athearn won the second race with his own 10-year-old gelding by Dragon Again, The Wayfairing Man, paying $12.80. Owned and driven by Matt, and trained by Matt’s mother Gretchen Athearn, The Wayfairing Man scored an untested romp from post five in 1:57.4.
Athearn also won with Kick The Dirt Up (1:57.4, $13.00) who is trained by Mike Girouard, and R T Lange (1:58.2, $3.80), who Billy DuBois trains.
Several fast-class races were captured by newlyweds Ron Cushing and the former Heidi Gibbs. The driving-training duo sent out Rock Diamonds N in the $7,800 Open 3 Pace, winning in 1:55.1 by four lengths. They also scored in the $7,150 Open 4 Trot with Swan Fine Lady in 1:59.4. Both horses were the favorites and owned by Ron Cushing and Kevin Sywyk, with the latter also including co-owner Lance Downs. It was a wonderful post-wedding gift for the couple who tied the knot during mid-December in Florida with a host of friends and family along for the adventure.
Bruce Ranger led all drivers at Cumberland in 2022 with 78 wins. Walter Case Jr. finished second in the drivers’ standings with 57 victories, and Kevin Switzer Jr. was third with 55. Chris Lefebvre was the leading conditioner with 31 trips to the Blue Seal Feeds Winner’s Circle. Benson Merrill was second with 23 victories, and Lisa Watson was third with 22 training wins.
Racing will resume in April 2023 at First Tracks Cumberland.
The management team at Black Bear Racing would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the staff, racing officials, horse people, fans and bettors that helped make their second full year of racing another successful extended pari-mutuel meeting.
For more information go to our website at firsttrackscumberland.com and follow us on Facebook at @FirstTracksCumberland.