Farmington, ME — An overflow crowd packed the historic grandstand at Farmington Fair on Saturday (September 23) as the final session of their 182nd season of harness racing got underway under pale blue, early autumn skies.
Cheers came early and cheers came often but the biggest cheers were reserved for the $10,000 Farmington Fair Invitational, providing the annual crescendo to a weeklong chorus of harness racing cacophony.
The Wild Card certainly gave the fans something to shout about as the six-year-old son of Bettor’s Delight-Scarlet’s Western blazed through a divisional track record performance for older stallions, timed in 1:54.1, erasing the longstanding record of 1:55.1 set Jason’s Jiffy (Drew Campbell) in the 2005 edition of the invitional.
Deftly handled by driver Bruce Ranger, The Wild Card settled in fourth behind the expected early speed of The Bird Dance N (Dan Deslandes). As the field began its crusade, The Bird Dance N delivered only pedestrian early fractions of :28.3 and :58.1 though, forcing El Jacko N (Kevin Switzer, Jr) to press the pace in overland fashion and giving The Wild Card the prime opportunity to grab a secon-over trip behind extremely live cover.
The Bird Dance N held firm under the steely-eyed gaze of El Jacko N as the tempo incrementally picked up through what would become a tremendous 56-second back-half as the lead pair raced in lockstep into the final turn. The Wild Card then joined the fray, tipping his hand as he fanned off three wide. Seemingly flying off the the final Farmington bend, he charged like a beast to the finish, all to the enthusiastic roar of the jam packed throng.
The 4-5 favorite generated an incredible final quarter of :27.2 while reaching the wire 1-1/4 lengths the best, out sprinting El Jacko N who finished second while Call Me Maverick (Michael Stevenson) rallied for third.
The Wild Card, trained by Joseph Nelson for owner Scott Dillon, adds the Farmington Fair Invitational title to the Hight Memorial Invitational trophy earned just last month at the Skowhegan State Fair and will undoubtably set his sights on a fairground circuit trifecta of sorts with the annual Mountain Skipper Invitational looming on the near horizon at the upcoming Fryeburg Fair.
In other Farmington news, Kevin Switzer, Jr concluded a stellar week with three driving wins on the closing day program. Switzer handily won the Farmington driving championship with 16 wins over the course of the meeting, five more than runner-up, Andy Harrington.
Sara Harrington was the leading Farmington trainer this season after sending eight winners to the post, while Candace Brandstatter (5 wins) out battled Benson Merrill (4 wins) to finish second in the standings.
The state-of-Maine harness racing circuit next travels to the Cumberland Fair beginning on Sunday (September 24) for their annual weeklong meeting. First post for Cumberland’s Sunday card is slated for 1:30 p.m. (EDT).