Maine Sire Stakes champions crowned on Festival of Champions day

by William Ellis, for Scarborough Downs and the New England Harness Writers Association

Scarborough, ME — Festival of Champions Day, a showcase for the Maine Sire Stakes championship round started out cold and wet on Saturday (Oct. 13) but quickly heated up and the sun finally made an appearance half way through the program. The large crowd at Scarborough Downs was treated to a live band along with many giveaways.

Photo courtesy of Scarborough Downs

Mouthpiece won 3-year-old colt and gelding trot to become a 2018 Maine Sire Stakes champion.

The first of eight Maine Standardbred Breeders Stakes races, the $89.007 3-year-old colt & gelding final trot, was won by the 20-year-old driver that is affectionately called “Matty Ice” guiding Mouthpiece into the winners circle. Matt Athearn steered the son of Noble Venture-Beluga to a wire-to-wire performance in a time of 2:02.4 on a track rated as good. The heavily favored entry was on the lead at the quarter, parked to the outside, but when he cleared it was all over as he stormed home with a 5-3/4 length victory, that could have been a lot more.

William Phipps of Yarmouth, Maine, owns the winner and the entry mate He’salittlenoble, who couldn’t keep his footing heading to three-quarters and broke, but still managed to finish third. The trainer for Mouthpiece was as happy as happy could be and smothered her driver/son with hugs and kisses.

Next the $89,278 3-year-old filly trotting final took center stage with all eyes pinned on favorite June Carter Cast who was having a near perfect season with 11 wins in 12 starts. Pembroke Dancer ,with driver Nicholas Graffam, had the benefit of the rail though and used it to his advantage to pull off the minor upset. Trainer and the drivers’ father, Mike Graffam, credits the victory to the early scrum between Pembroke Dancer and June Carter Cast. The daughter of Cr Power Glide-Spring Laughter stretched out June Carter Cast in an opening quarter of 2:9.4. Pembroke Dancer picked up the fight again at the three-quarter pole and from there went on to a four-length victory in a time of 2:06.3 for the Ben, Bill and Will Stable of Carmel, Maine.

Two-year-old fillies, racing for $56,454 went to post in their respective final with the leading point earner, JustCallMe Bets, going off as the favorite. JustCallMe Bets grabbed the lead but had company all away around the seaside oval. Cominrightatyou and driver Ron Cushing hampered the favorite throughout the mile and managed a very game second but the outside route was costly. t was the daughter of Deuce Seelster- Guard The Rose, Moonlightandroses and driver David Ingraham that took home the big prize as Ingraham traveled on the outside following Cominrightatyou and picked up the pieces in the stretch with a four-length victory for Canadian owner Clark Bustard of Elmwood, New Brunswick, and trainer David White.

Moonlightandroses won her fifth race in eight starts and was timed in 2:06.4.

The $56,437 2-year-old filly trot final saw Lady Victoria, the daughter of Victor Blue Chip-AJ’s Baby, wait out a long photo as she and Buena Vita Bebe and Ron Cushing, who attacked on the inside, were noses apart at the wire. Cushing came back to the winner’s circle, but the photo ultimately gave the win to Lady Victoria. Trainer/driver Ivan Davies started from post eight and after a couple of missteps by the competition found himself grabbing the lead by the quarter with Lady Victoria. Lady Victoria had enough at the wire to hold on recording her seventh win in nine starts for owner Stephan Hall of Newport, Maine ,in a time of 2:08.4. The other half of the Davies/Hall Entry, Victor’s Secret, finished fourth.

The combination of driver Drew Campbell and trainer Jim Dunn captured the $15,000 Filly and Mare Free For All Pace in 2:01.1 with Western Stepp. Campbell who charged from the back of the pack to record a head victory said in the winners circle that the track was heavy and he was fortunate that he managed to get the victory.

With the knowledge of the track being heavy, Campbell tried a different strategy in the $89,311 3-year-old pacing fillies final. Campbell left with Gonna Hear Me Rohr, the daughter of Western Maverick-Heather K, and settled in behind pacesetter, Saratoga Liz, who was driven by long time veteran Bruce Ranger, who hasn’t raced since 2015. Campbell at the three-quarter pole tipped and went by Saratoga Liz and coasted home a 13-length winner in 2:01.4 for owner Bradford Veilleux of Greene, Maine, and trainer Jim Dunn.

Owners Thomas Dillon of Anson, Maine, and Walter Hight of Skowhegan, Maine, have teamed up year after year and have owned some of the best racehorses that Maine has offered. Ally Way Cast is another outstanding trotter for this pair and one that Tom Dillon said in the winner’s circle was one of the best that the team has ever owned. In a very uneventful win, Ally Way Cast, son of Current Cast-Ally-Gal Ridge, easily won the $56,426 2-year-old trotting final in a leisurely 2:06.2, 10 lengths the best. Dillon credited his success to driver veteran reinsman Gary Mosher and the Maine stalwart trainer Donald Richards.

The $56,460 2-year-old colt and gelding pacing final saw driver David Ingraham and trainer David White team up for another over the road victory. Bait A Hook from post position eight, saw Ingraham take the son of Deuce Seelster-Josie Plumstead to the outside going past the half and from there he grinded past the competition winning in a time of 2:01.2. When asked in the winner’s circle about his luck from the outside post positions Ingraham stated that the luck wasn’t with him on the draw but he managed to overcome the poor positions. The win with Bait A Hook was the second stakes victory of the day for owner Clark Bustard of Elmwood, New Brunswick ,Canada.

The $15,000 Free For All Trot was won in the same fashion that David Ingraham had demonstrated all day. From post position seven, Ingraham had BJ Anthony out and going at the half and he crossed the wire 11-1/2 length victor in 2:02.2 for owner/trainer Dustin Ingraham.

The final of the eight Breeders Stakes races saw the 3-year-old pacing colts go to post battling for a purse of $89,321. Race favorite Pembroke Pharoah got away slow and had problems breaking as the field headed towards three-quarters. The outside flow was active and Stormyweatherahead came like a thunderbolt with driver Matt Athearn guiding the son of Luckcamotion-Wolf Creek Cupid into the winner’s circle finishing off a day that the young driver will never forget. Stormyweatherahead won in a time of 2:00.3, seven lengths the best.

Matty Ice, the son of Mark & Gretchen Athearn, started his racing career in 2014, and is now the sports newest millionaire with his driving purses now totaling $1,004..

Stormyweatherahead is trained by Marc Tardif for owner Leighton Property of Waterboro, Maine.

With the Maine Sire Stakes season now concluded, racing action in the Pine Tree State will be controlled by the overnight ranks, with live racing action continuing at Scarborough Downs every Saturday and Sunday afternoon through Dec. 9.

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