The Maine horse population faces its first serious “stress test” next week with three race tracks operating in the state – Topsham Fair, Northern Maine Fair and Scarborough Downs.
But, the most dramatic change in the history of Maine racing takes place this weekend at Scarborough Downs. For the first time in nearly 20 years, a full card of thoroughbred racing will be seen in Maine. On Saturday, Aug. 3, Scarborough Downs will begin simulcasting full-card thoroughbred races from Rockingham Park, Salem, N.H., in addition to presenting its full harness racing card live at Scarborough Downs.
The thoroughbred simulcast program will begin at 1 p.m. on Saturday and end at approximately 5:15 p.m., according to Kathryn Rolston, publicity director at Scarborough Downs. The harness racing post time is 6 p.m. Saturday and will mark the beginning of an on-going program of thoroughbred simulcasting to be presented every Saturday and Sunday, beginning Aug. 10, according to Rolston.
The program, which was approved by the State Legislature and the Maine State Harness Racing Commission, will be expanded in the fall, Rolston said.
Skowhegan Raceway races out its extended meet this week with a Friday card at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday’s post at 2 p.m.
“This week has been moderately successful, much the same as Bangor’s extended meet,” said Maitland Richardson, general manager at Skowhegan. “So far, we haven’t set huge parimutuel figures, but they are much better than last year.
The Skowhegan State Fair is Aug. 11-17.
Skowhegan hosted the 2-year-old divisons of the Maine Standardbred Breeders Stakes on Tuesday and Wednesday. Each stakes race was carded as a wagering event. In the 2-year-old trotting division, Butch MacKenzie drove Royala J. to his first win in the series in 2:10.4, beating Race Me Genius by a nose.
The 2-year-old pacing colts divisions were won by Throg and Walt LaFreniere Jr., in 2:04.4, after finishing second in the two previous weeks. The other pacing event was won by Wild Wee Willey and Gary Hall in 2:04.2 over Coulter’s Best, last week’s winner.
On Wednesday, the 3-year-old trotting division was won by Uncle Wayne and Wally Watson in 2:08.2. In the 2-year-old filly divisions, Orono and Gordon Corey made it back-to-back wins in 2:07.1. In the second filly division, Kevin Switzer paced Lake Valley Miss to an eight-length win in 2:05.
The 3-year-old trotters were led across the time stripe by Gary Hall and Kirk Ridgecrest in 2:08.1, beating last week’s winner GM’s Kalin by 1 1/2-lengths.
Harness racing moves to Topsham Fair on Sunday, Aug. 4, with split post times for the week. On Sunday and Monday, post time is 7 p.m. From Tuesday through Friday, post time is 2 p.m. and the final racing day on Saturday, Aug. 10, post time is 1:30 p.m.
Topsham will also host the 2-year-old divisions of the Maine Standardbred Breeders Stakes with the pacing colts and trotters on Monday and the pacing fillies on Tuesday. Both Ed Kelleher, presiding judge, and Peter Hanley II, race secretary, will serve in the same capacities at Topsham as at Skowhegan.
Harness racing in Northern Maine begins a week-long stint, starting on Saturday, Aug. 3, during the 137th edition of the Northern Maine Fair at Presque Isle. Dennis May is the presiding judge and Ken Sumner serves as race secretary.
Northern Maine has a number of feature races and blanket races, but Graves’s Shop ‘N Save is offering $500 to the first driver of a horse of either gait that breaks the track record. The current pacing standard at NMF is 2:00.2 held by Columbo Seelster. The trotting record is 2:04.1, held by Satan’s Legend.
NMF will also host the 3-year-old divisions of the Maine Breeders Stakes on Thursday and Friday, Aug. 8-9. The racing schedule at NMF calls for: 7:30 p.m. post time on Saturday; no racing Sunday; 2 p.m. Monday; 7:30 p.m. Tuesday; 2 p.m. Wednesday; 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday.