Quality field set for state’s richest trotting race

Posted Aug. 14, 2009, at 11:16 p.m.

Seven horses will compete for a $50,000 purse in the Joseph Ricci Memorial Mile Trot, Maine’s richest trotting race, in Scarborough this weekend.

The ninth annual race will line up behind the gate today in the 10th of 12 races. Post time for the first race is 4:15 p.m.

Pre-race favorite BatalJ Launcher, a 10-year-old British import, has won 36 of 69 career starts for a .522 winning percentage. Shawn Gray of Gardiner will drive the 9-5 favorite trained by Joseph Nelson.

“From top to bottom, this race contains nothing but top-level campaigners,” said Scarborough Downs publicity director Mike Sweeney. “A new track record is certainly not out of the question.”

The track trotting record is 1 minute, 57.3 seconds set by Friendly Face in 1988 and equaled 20 years later by Dink Adoo.

Two-time defending State of Maine Trotter of the Year Kerogen is getting 3-1 odds. The 6-year-old is making an unprecedented third straight appearance in the race and brings a lifetime record of 46 wins in 89 starts. Driver Kim Ireland, whose wife Wendy is the trainer, will try to make it 47.

Another race favorite at 5-2 is 8-year-old Scorpion Moon, whose lifetime winnings of just over $500,000 in 150 career starts is impressive, as is the 1:58.2 effort he turned in last weekend after a five-month break. The horse, driven by Kevin Switzer, Jr. and trained by Patricia Switzer, is making his second bid for the Ricci Memorial crown.

Two competitors come from the Bangor-based Bill Varney-Valerie Grondin stable: Pembroke Prayer and Pembroke Spice — both drawing 7-1 odds. Spice, which won the second leg of Scarborough Downs’ $10,000 series last weekend, is the only mare in the field. Prayer was a 2006 Meadows’ Arden Stakes division winner and also won top honors in that year’s Kentucky Sire Stakes.

Karpathos, driven by Ivan Davies, is the race’s literal dark horse entry as it has never before competed in stakes, invitational, or any other named races and has changed owner hands six times via claim races. A pair of top-three finishes in the Ricci elimination rounds seems to have made him a not-so long shot at 3-1.

The remaining race entry is Creditable Winner, a 3-year-old driven by John Beckwith and trained by John Hanning. Another 7-1 long shot, Winner finished second in a Bluegrass Stakes division at Lexington three years ago and raced in the prestigious Old Oaken Bucket at Delaware, Ohio, a year later. This Maine-owned trotter makes his second attempt at glory in the race named for the former Scarborough Downs owner.

Horsemen huddling

Maine Harness Horsemen’s Association officials have talked with representatives of Scarborough Downs regarding the southern Maine commercial track’s circulation of a waiver form among drivers last week.

The MHHA is reporting that talks this week haven’t been “finalized,” and likely will not produce an agreement until next week at the earliest due to time constraints.

Scarborough began handing out a release and indemnity agreement waiver form for drivers to sign late last month without the MHHA’s endorsement or approval, so the MHHA advised members not to sign the forms.

Queries regarding the form and the current status of the talks were referred by Scarborough Downs director of operations Steve Cobbett to attorney Ed McCall, but attempts to reach McCall at his offices Friday were unsuccessful.

Chandler Woodcock, MHHA executive director, was unavailable for comment.

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