Valerie Grondin scores 500th career driving win Friday at Bangor Raceway

Bangor, ME — Life’s milestones are best enjoyed in familiar surroundings and shared with family and friends. So even the best script writer in Hollywood couldn’t have conjured up a more perfect setting when Valerie Grondin recorded her 500th career driving win Friday (Sept. 15) at Bangor Raceway.

Valerie Grondin recorded the 500th driving win of her career with Zampara at Bangor Raceway on Friday. Thomas Smith photo.

On the very same oval where she recorded her first driving win back in 1985, and at her hometown track where she honed the skills which have made her one of the most successful trainers in state of Maine history, Grondin donned her instantly recognizable colors and took to the gate, intent, as she always is, on finishing first.

Zampara (2:01.3-$3.80), a horse that she co-owns with William Underhill, was the vehicle that propelled Grondin into the 500 win club. Steady off the car, Grondin waited patiently as the field settled in through the first turn before pouncing, catlike, to the lead. It was a lead that she never relinquished as she threw an old school half of 1:02.2 into the faces of the boys before speeding home through an incrementally zippy :59.1 back half to secure the three-quarter length margin of victory.

Grondin was then welcomed into the winner’s circle by an expansive group of family, friends and fellow competitors, accompanied by the roar of approval by her hometown fans at Bangor Raceway.

A Bangor native who grew up mere blocks from the track, Grondin was naturally drawn to the backstretch after first experiencing the rewards of working with horses among the pleasure horse set. Working alongside her life partner, Heath Campbell, her stable, which specializes in Maine Sire Stakes competitors alongside a select group of overnight campaigners, has developed some of the most accomplished Maine-breds in the program; horses like Chipper Dale, a freshman trotter who is currently a perfect six-for-six while earning $51,516 in Maine Sire Stakes purse money so far this season. He’ll be putting his undefeated streak on the line at Farmington Fair on Monday (Sept. 18) with Grondin once again taking her customary sulky seat.

Success by female drivers, while certainly not the norm on a nationwide basis, is heralded along the Pine Tree circuit. Grondin, Kelly Case (783 wins) and Charlene Cushing (330 wins) can all be seen still demonstrating their skills on a somewhat regular basis, and by doing so, perhaps, inspiring the next generation of female teamsters to take to the track.

Bangor Raceway will remain open for simulcast wagering for the next month while live racing transitions to Maine’s fall fairground circuit. Racing at Farmington Fair is next on the docket featuring daily cards beginning Sunday (Sept. 17) with post time slated at 2 p.m. (EDT).

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