The opening weekend of fall harness racing brought a lot of people to Bangor Raceway Friday and Sunday, especially Sunday.
“The weather was actually pretty good, but I think the real draw was the Family Fun Day,” said Bangor Raceway director of racing Fred Nichols. “People had to wait to get on the hay rides, but even without that, it was obviously popular because they sold out of just about everything.”
Nichols was referring to the Bangor Museum and Center for History’s Family Day at Bass Park, a daylong fundraiser for the museum which featured everything from blacksmith exhibitions to petting zoos and hay rides.
Maine Standardbred Breeders and Owners Association president Diann Perkins estimated Sunday’s crowd at around 1,000 people.
Another bright spot was the total handle (amount of money bet) at Bangor Raceway Friday and Sunday.
“I was hoping it wouldn’t drop off much from the better weather days and it really hadn’t,” Nichols said. “Friday and Sunday were both in the mid-30s: 35,000 dollars one day and 33,000 the other.
“I like the way it’s starting and I’m encouraged.”
In fact, things were so encouraging on the opening weekend of Bangor Historic Track’s first official season of fall racing that officials have already requested the same basic schedule for next season, with six more race dates (for a total of 50) in an official proposal to the Maine State Harness Racing Commission.
Broken arm sidelines Hall
Longtime driver Gary Hall of Newport will be out of the sulky and virtually out of harness racing for at least three months after suffering a broken left arm during an accident in the third race at Bangor Raceway Tuesday night.
Hall was driving 3-year-old filly Caprice and was going along the backstretch when Caprice suddenly missed a step and fell. The 54-year-old Hall was catapulted up and forward from his sulky before falling hard to the ground. He was then hit by either the horse or sulky driven by Don Dickinson as Dickinson’s horse Sweet Syrup was right behind Hall when the accident happened.
“I heard a medic say it was a compound fracture in the upper arm, but I’m not sure, to be honest, what it is exactly,” said Hall. “You could see it was a way it wasn’t supposed to be.
“I know it’s broken in two places and we’ll know in the next couple days whether or not they need to do surgery and put some pins in.”
Hall, who said he’s still “sore all over,” will be out of commission at least three months, five or more if surgery is needed. This is the second bad break in Hall’s 35-year racing career. He broke his collarbone in the late 1980s.
“I think this is one of those instances where it could have been much worse if we’d still had a hub rail or more horses in the field,” Hall said. “The horse I was driving just fell. No warning… Just dropped. When that happens, nobody can react. Fortunately there were just the two horses in front of me and the one right behind me.”
Both horses were down for awhile, but once the equipment and the horses were disentangled, they both walked back to the barn without injury.
Race director Fred Nichols said accidents happen, but not often, at Bangor Raceway.
“We’ve probably averaged maybe one accident every two years in the 14 years I’ve been here and it almost always results in some kind of fracture,” Nichols said.
The last one involved driver John Mahar, who went down in front of the grandstand and suffered a fractured wrist.
Harnessing the big bucks
Two favorites and a couple of dark horses won the richest purses in Maine harness racing history last Sunday at the 3-year-old colt and filly trotting and pacing championships at Scarborough Downs.
Of the four, three of them made local owners and drivers very happy.
The biggest winner was Pembroke Touch, a colt pacer owned by William Varney of Bangor that won the $72,479 seventh race. Pembroke Touch was third in the season series points race but first when it counted most. Heath Campbell drove the horse, which was trained by Valerie Grondin.
The 3-year-old filly trotter champ was series leader Pop N Paula, owned by Sheridan Smith of West Farmington and Belgrade’s Gary Mosher, who also trained and drove the $72,350 race winner.
Another local winner was A She Biscuit, a bit of a long shot in that the horse owned by Nancy Stewart of Warren was seventh in the filly pacer series points. Jason Bartlett drove her to victory in the $72,436 race.
The final big money champ was colt trotter series leader Forward Momentum, which was driven to a win in the $70,289 race by Gordon Corey. The owner is Michael Andrew of Gorham.
Andrew Neff can be reached at 990-8205, 1-800-310-8600 or at email@example.com