CUMBERLAND, ME – Veteran harness racing driver Mike Stevenson notched the 2,000th career victory in Cumberland on Good Friday (April 15), at the track the New Brunswicker now calls home.
Now in his fifth decade of riding and training, Stevenson has earned $8,071,432 in career scholarships in 14,308 lifetime starts. This new milestone marks a long journey of overcoming obstacles and perseverance in the face of adversity for the 57-year-old rider.
“This achievement feels really good,” Stevenson noted. “I have always tried to stick to the basics and prepare my horses as the great riders before me have taught me.”
Stevenson summed it up in three words: “Grateful, thankful and humble.”
A regular rider of last year’s Maine champion 3-year-old colt Call Me Maverick, Stevenson is eagerly awaiting the Gordon Corey-trained standout to return to the fairgrounds for his 4-year-old campaign.
“The owners turned down multiple offers and said they ‘just wanted to have fun with him,'” Stevenson added. “We all love this little horse and look forward to the annual return of Gordon and Alison from Pinehurst.”
As the fenders of the starting car folded for Friday’s eighth race, Stevenson sent Rojas Blue Chip straight to the front of post four, with Kim’s Day (Drew Campbell) getting a two-hole trip. Setting comfortable opening fractions of 29.2 and 1:01 with the 5-year-old American Ideal mare, the pressure began to drop as Whatchagonnadoboo (Aaron Hall) blew the earplugs past the half and went on to chase the 10-1 leader.
Accompanied by the leader, Whatchagonnadoboo looked Rojas Blue Chip straight in the eye down the straight in a 1:30.1 third stanza with Kim’s Day blocked and nowhere to go. As the peloton headed home, the aggressor faded allowing Drew Campbell to sneak in with Kim’s Day to chase the favorite. Fortunately, Stevenson and Rojas Blue Chip had enough in the tank to hold off the late charge and prevail by a measured header of 2:00.4.
Rojas Blue Chip is also trained by Mike Stevenson and paid $22.00 to win for owner David Del Pozzo. Kim’s Day finished second, Whatchagonnadoboo hung on for third place.
ROJAS BLUE CHIP REPLAY
Several other “firsts” were achieved on the beautiful sunny day of harness racing in southern Maine.
Ron Cushing set a new track record with his own Swan Fine Lady, destroying the field in the $6,000 Open II Trot, winning in 1:58.2 by over 12 lengths. Also formed and co-owned by Ron Cushing with partners Kevin Sywyk and Lance Downs, the daughter of Swan for all set a new benchmark for 4-year-old trotting mares at Cumberland.
Swan Fine Lady paid $2.60 to win. Little Macabee (Aaron Hall) was second, Make It A Double (Mark Athearn) was third.
SWAN FINE LADY REPLAY
Zachary Gray, 21, picked up the first training victory of his young career. Off to a good start in his inaugural season, the Maine native picked up a win and second in five starts this year, earning him a .311 UTRS.
Two $4,000 splits from the first innings of our Kick-Off Late Closer Pacing series went through the schedule.
In race four, Northview favorite Punter N raced down the field on the backstretch to win decisively for rider Bruce Ranger and owner/trainer Michelle Hardin in 2:00.2. After splits cut by Librado Hanover (Aaron Hall), the 13-year-old son of Bettor’s Delight emerged victorious and rewarded his backers with a $4.20 winning ticket.
Librado Hanover finished second, That’s Some Plan (Mike Stevenson) finished third and also advanced to the $8,000 final next Friday (April 22).
The second split, sixth race event was a game between She’sallfinn and driver Matty “Ice” Athearn, who won by five lengths in 2:00.1. Parked last half, the 9-year-old from Duneside Perch is owned and coached by Rex Ellis and paid $7.20 to win.
Shadytouch (Andy Harrington) was second, Eternal Ring (Dan Deslandes) was third and earned places in next Friday’s $8,000 final, with fourth fastest Seafood King (Drew Campbell).
On his first day back, Cumberland’s top driver last year, Drew Campbell won two races on the schedule, as did Kevin Switzer Jr. and Matt Athearn. Chris Lefebvre also had two practice wins on the card.
Saturday’s (April 16) card is highlighted by five Kick-Off Series splits, with three $5,000 splits from Event #2 and a pair of $6,000 splits for Event #2. ° 3. The finals of these events run on April 23 and claim a purse of $10,000 and $12,000 respectively.
Two Open-level pace events share the marquee on Saturday, April 16, scheduled for race one (Pick-5) and race six Open I-II at $6,500. A property entry leads the morning line favorites into this event with Captain Nash (post 3, Bruce Ranger) and Nagle (post 4, Dan Deslandes).
Qualifying for Saturday at Cumberland has been moved to 1 p.m. to allow for the overflow of horses into the paddock during the regular card.
Tee time for the Spring/Summer meet is 3:00 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, with the extended pari-mutuel meet running each weekend until July 23.
The twelfth final in the race features our new 20-cent Hi-Five (Pentafecta), with 16% low fuel consumption.
You can find more information on our website: https://firsttrackscumberland.
For full race results, Click here.
by Chris Tully, for First Tracks Cumberland