Normally, the pace car would already be tucked away in some garage, the stables would be nearly empty, and the track would be a pretty quiet place to hang out.
That’s not the case this fall at Bangor Raceway as Bangor Historic Track will host harness racing in October and November for the first time in its 123-year history.
The action starts Friday at 7 p.m. Race days are Friday nights, Sunday afternoons, and Tuesday nights through Nov. 5. Post times are 7 p.m. weeknights and 1 p.m. on Sundays.
“We did race in September back in 1995, and that’s the latest I can remember us racing,” said Fred Nichols, Bangor Raceway’s director of racing. “It was a really cold September that year, too. This October is supposed to be very pleasant, however, and it’s already starting out very nicely.”
Still, just in case things get a little too nippy on these fall Maine evenings, space heaters have been placed strategically all around the facility.
“We did put in a few heaters here and there: In the mutuel booths, the officials’ office up on the roof, and some out in the new paddock,” Nichols explained. “Other than that, it’s basically just normal track maintenance like replacing the pylons with new ones, making sure the audio and video systems are functioning correctly…. The same things we go through in the spring.”
Cold weather shouldn’t be a problem for bettors and other race fans, even if it’s cold and rainy outside, as the grandstand is enclosed and heated.
“It will be much more comfortable for people. The weather won’t be an issue for them in there,” Nichols said. “Anyone who hasn’t yet checked out the grandstand should really be pleasantly surprised.”
Nichols said he isn’t the only one excited about fall racing. Owners, trainers, and drivers are champing at their bits as well.
“Normally this time of year, they have to drive to Scarborough or further to keep racing. This is a lot more convenient and economical for them,” Nichols said. “The horsemen are really looking forward to this. The stables are full and they’re anxious to get going.
“I like extending the season. It gives the horsemen around this area and who stable here another four weeks’ worth of racing, which is good. There are a few horses who haven’t been able to make as much or race as much as they should and this is an extra opportunity for them as well.”
Nichols said he sees Bangor offering eight races on Tuesdays and 10 to 12 on Fridays and Sundays. As was the case this spring and summer, there should be no shortage of horses.
“I’m hoping we’ll average $30,000 [total handle] a day and with 11 total race days, that would add another $330,000 to the purse payouts this year,” Nichols said.
Andrew Neff can be reached at 990-8205, 1-800-310-8600 or at email@example.com`