Bigger Purses Coming To Maine Horse Racing

Written By J.R. Duren on March 21, 2022
Maine horse racing purse increase

The racing business in Maine looks like its booming.

First Tracks Cumberland and Hollywood Casino Hotel & Raceway have announced they will increase purses for overnight races by 7%. The move comes less than one year after a 10% purse increase in June 2021.

Cumberland Racing Secretary Marc Reynolds said in a company statement:

“There is tremendous opportunity for horsemen in the state of Maine, and we anticipate great interest in our weekend racecards. The track crew is working hard to prepare the surface for our Spring opener, and we hope that the Maine Harness Horsemen respond with a full entry box.”

‘Significant’ rise in handle for Maine horse racing led to purse boost

Increased purses seem to be a bit of a shock in the bigger context of American sports for the past two years. Leagues have had to deal with decreased attendance and lost revenue. For example, the NFL lost nearly $4 billion because of the pandemic.

Lost revenue was generally not an issue for Maine’s horse-racing industry.

Maine Harness Horsemen’s Association President Mike Cushing said that there was a “significant increase” in betting handle in 2021, largely due to export betting at First Tracks and solid numbers from Maine casinos in the last half of the year.

Cushing commented:

“The Maine horsemen are anxious to get the 2022 season underway. We are especially excited to have been informed that First Tracks Cumberland will be offering a 7% increase in purse monies.

Although Mainers can gamble on harness races, there is no online horse betting in ME. However, that may change given the sturdy interest in the horse racing industry and handle increase in Maine.

Perhaps Maine gamblers could benefit from offering accessibility at major online horse race betting sites like TVG.

Harness races will get underway on Apr. 2

The 2022 harness horse racing season will unofficially begin on Apr. 2 when qualifiers kick off at Cumberland. The track said that condition sheets will be available shortly for those raises.

Races will take place on Friday and Saturday from Apr. 8 – Jul. 23. post times are 3 p.m.

Standardbred racing is already underway at Hollywood Casino Hotel & Raceway. Races take place every Wednesday and Sunday from now until mid-July.

Mike Hopkins, manager of Bangor Raceway operations, said the purse increase comes at a time when rising costs are hitting horsemen hard. Hopkins said:

“It’s good to see the harness racing industry in Maine benefit from the good year Hollywood Casino Bangor had. With costs skyrocketing, hopefully, the purse increase will lessen the burden on the horsemen.”

Off-track betting and simulcast are available in:

  • Banger
  • Sanford
  • Scarborough
  • Lewiston
  • Brunswick
  • Waterville

Cumberland bringing back late closer series for 2022 season

Aside from First Track, Cumberland’s usual series of weekend races, the facility is bringing back for the second year its late closer series.

It will be for pacers with Trackmaster ratings of 62 or less (Series #1), 65 or less (Series #2), and 68 or less (Series #3). The Trackmaster rating cap is two points higher for fillies and mares.

The three series will take place from Apr. 15 – Apr. 23. Purses are as follows:

  • $4,000 first leg, $8,000 final – Series #1
  • $5,000 first leg, $10,000 final – Series #2
  • $6,000 first leg, $12,000 final – Series #3

First Tracks Cumberland Race Secretary Marc Reynolds said in a company statement:

“We are excited to bring increased opportunities to the Maine horse people for the second year of racing at First Tracks Cumberland. Most of the local trainers and owners supported us for our inaugural race meet, and we look forward to taking their entries again in 2022.”

Photo by Mark Baker / Associated Press
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