Day At The Track

Maine sire stakes champions crowned

11:00 AM 12 Oct 2014 NZDT
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Pembroke Castaway with driver Heath Campbell.jpg David the Saint with driver Mark Athearn Mary Rose of Topaz with driver Kevin Switzer, Jr. Shes A Castoff with driver Ruel Goodblood, Jr.
Pembroke Castaway with driver Heath Campbell
Michael Newman photo
David the Saint with driver Mark Athearn
Michael Newman photo
Mary Rose of Topaz with driver Kevin Switzer, Jr.
Michael Newman photo
Shes A Castoff with driver Ruel Goodblood, Jr.
Michael Newman photo
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Scarborough, Maine (Saturday, October 11, 2014) A large and enthusiastic crowd gathered at Scarborough Downs on a chilly October afternoon. The action, though, was hot and furious as the championship round of the three-year-old division of the Maine Sire Stakes Program was contested for purses in excess of $365,000, making Saturday the richest day in the history of State of Maine harness racing.

Mary Rose Of Topaz capped a magical season in the $85,001 filly pacing final as she secured her 11th stakes win of her sophomore campaign. Kevin Switzer, Jr., driving for trainer Ralph Andersen and owner Andrew Card, waited for the field to settle before making his move toward the lead. From that point the victory never seemed in peril. Even when the upstart, Pembroke Lynn attempted to come alongside through the final turn, the champion's grit and determination shone through as she dug in deep before gliding to the wire in an unhurried clocking of 1:59 flat.

"She gets a little hot leaving out sometimes so I let her settle a bit before letting her leave on her own," Switzer explained, "and then when that horse came at us in the last turn I wasn't too concerned, all I said to her was 'please don't run!'"

"I want to thank Ralph Andersen for giving me the opportunity to drive her this year," Switzer continued. "She such a nice filly that quite honestly, anybody could drive her. All the credit goes to Ralph for getting her and keeping her so good all year."

Dual Stakes eligible, her final engagement of the season will be at Plainridge Racecourse in the Finals of the Massachusetts Sire Stakes program.

Pembroke Lynn (Heath Campbell) capped off an outstanding stakes season for the Grondin/Varney/Campbell triumvirate by securing the runner-up placing. Danville Sweetheart (Gary Mosher) rallied for the show.

The $85,044 colt pacing final appeared to be the deepest on paper, and the outcome did not disappoint. David The Saint took full advantage of scoring from the rail to secure the dream pocket journey as the Mark Athearn-teamed entry followed Blackmalin and Kevin Switzer, Jr. twice around the oval. When the outer flow began to falter around the final turn, Athearn pulled the pocket, cleared to the lead, and crossed the wire on top as a huge contingent of "Team Athearn" fans roared their approval.

"He'll always pass one horse and that's all I had to get past today," Athearn commented after receiving a kiss from his wife Gretchen, who is also the horse's trainer, "He's been good all year and will always dig in when they come at him so I felt pretty confident as we turned for home."

David The Saint is owned by the team composed of Norman St Clair, Donald Harmon, Sr and Gretchen Athearn. The son of Neutralize took a brand new lifetime mark of 1:58.1 en route to scoring his fifth win of the season.

Maynard B held on to secure runner-up honors while Pembroke Newt (Heath Campbell) rallied for third.

Pembroke Castaway soared coast to coast en route to victory in the $84,936 colt trotting final, handily defeating an accomplished field of state-breds to secure his sixth consecutive win. Driver Heath Campbell confidently called the shots, teaming the son of Current Cast, for trainer Valerie Grondin and owner William Varney of Bangor, Maine with the mile timed in 2:00.1, just 1/5th of a second off the divisional track record established by Bad Boy Billy, another Maine-bred, in 2009.

Winless in nine starts as a two-year-old, Pembroke Castaway became the dominate force in Maine stakes circles as a sophomore.

"He just got right at the right time" Heath Campbell remarked, "He just didn't race hard last year but put it all together as a three-year-old. He's turned into a pretty nice colt."

Star Studded Cast (Mark Athearn) rode the pocket trip to the runner-up placing while CCC (Kim Ireland) held steady for third.

The prodigy of stallion Current Cast completed the sweep of the trotting finals as Shes A Castoff secured the 11th win of his sophomore season to lay claim to the colt trotting crown in what turned out to be a rather contentious battle for the 84,654 purse offering. Driver Ruel Goodblood, Jr.was intent on sending Shes Castoff to her customary front end seat but encounter a stiff early challenge from the Gary Mosher teamed Kate At The Gate who kept the favored entry at bay until well past the 3/8th pole. Once on the lead, Goodblood, braced and ready for the eventual stretch challenge, kept his filly brave to the wire, holding off the challenger to the tune of a 1-3/4 length margin.

"I wasn't too anxious" driver Goodblood remarked, concerning taking all that early air, "We'll just let her record speak for itself. She grew up a lot from her two-year-old season (when she went winless) got a lot smarter and got a lot better."

Shes A Castoff is owned in partnership by Thomas Dillon and Walter Hight and trained by Hall of Fame conditioner, Donald Richards.

Despite the expert tactics from driver Gary Mosher, Kate At The Gate finished second to her rival for the seventh time this season, while Hermione K (Wallace Watson) finished third, hitting the board for the very first time in her career in this her biggest engagement.

Harness racing continues throughout the fall at Scarborough Downs on a three-day schedule, Friday through Sunday, with a 1:05 pm post time.

Michael Sweeney

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