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85-year-old wins with 14-year-old pacer

85-year-old wins with 14-year-old pacer

CUMBERLAND, ME – Despite being in the twilight of their respective careers, owner-trainer-driver Bob Nadeau steered his own veteran harness racing pacer Putnam’s Storm (Force Of Life) to victory in Saturday’s (June 24) Maine Amateur Driving Club (MADC) event at Cumberland Raceway.

It was the eleventh start of the season for the 14-year-old gray gelding Putnams Storm, who has quietly earned $193,521 in a career that has spanned his entire 13 years of eligibility.  Bred in Nova Scotia, the handsome gray has 38 victories in 331 starts. 

85-year-old wins with 14-year-old pacer
Bob Nadeau [85] scores with his own Putnam’s Storm [14] to grab their first wins of the season (Stephanie Gray Photo)

His owner, perhaps ironically, has owned, trained and driven harness horses since before the USTA started keeping full and complete records of such activities.  First licensed in 1966, Nadeau who is now 85, has visited winners’ circles all over New England 162 times.Putnams Storm (4-1) left from pylon position, and the steely-eyed Nadeau had no intention of letting anyone go.  Following his 31 second opening panel, Nadeau maintained a comfortable lead throughout the early going.  However, young-gun and series leader Jason Bertolini decided to take a shot and pulled Bailey’s Legacy (1-1) first over into a 1:02.4 half.

At the 3/8’s pole, announcer Scott Ehrlich stated, “The combination age of the leader Putnams Storm with his pilot Bob Nadeau is a mere 99 years.”

Nadeau rated an easy first half, and with Bailey’s Legacy trying to gain ground on the outside, the gray horse was given his cue to roll on, taunting the would-be spoilers to catch him at the 1:31.2 third panel.  Around the final turn, the bridle of Bailey’s Legacy was at the wheel of Putnams Storm, and the battle for MADC bragging rights was on.  With every stride and each seat-pushing thrust of the race bike, the stretch drive was a match of wills, pitting youth and skill against age and treachery.

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With neither warrior giving, or taking an inch, Nadeau kept his beloved Putnam’s Storm on the bit and on point to prevail by a half-length over the favorite in 2:01.1.  Owned, trained and driven to his first seasonal victory by Nadeau, the veteran pacer paid $10.80 to win the sixth leg of the MADC series that is faithfully sponsored by the Blue Seal Feed Stores of Windham and North Yarmouth, Maine.  Following the victory, Bob Nadeau moved up to second place with 35 points, behind Jason Bertolini with 58 atop the MADC leader board.

PUTNAM’S STORM REPLAY

The active octogenarian acquired Putnams Storm in 2021 and has raced him exclusively in Maine ever since.  In that time, the horse has truly grown on Nadeau.  “He is one of the best horses I have ever owned.  I have had Maine stakes horses since the 1970s, but this horse is special. He has a home for life.”

As game a horse as one could want, Putnams Storm has taken a race record every year for the past 13 racing seasons.  Earning his wings at Truro, NS and Charlottetown, PEI, since then the horse has changed hands and zip codes no less than a dozen times, racing all over the Northeast and Midwest.  His swiftest victory came at the Red Mile in Lexington where he scored in 1:50.4 at age five, making him perhaps the fastest gray pacer ever bred in Nova Scotia.

Unbeknownst to Nadeau, First Tracks Cumberland was hosting several dozen equine enthusiasts from Camp Kippewa, a local riding and training facility that specializes in matching young people with retired Standardbreds.  Their ‘Track to Treasured’ program was spearheaded by Mary Paige Black Kowalski, who in turn helped swarm the Blue Seal Winners Circle with excited young ladies carrying handmade signs and banners for the winning connections.

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In addition, the $4,800 Camp Kippewa Trot was also a robust display of harness racing glee, with all the campers and their chaperones joining winning driver Walter Case Jr. and trotter Guinness to help them celebrate victory (2:01.1, $11.60) in the fifth race.  In fact, the campers happily hijacked nearly every winners circle photo of the day, much to the unanticipated joy of the drivers and trainers of the victory lane-bound horses.

Equine enthusiasts from Camp Kippewa join Nadeau in victory (Stephanie Gray Photo)

Walter Case Jr. won three races on the Saturday (June 24) program, with Drew Campbell and Kevin Switzer Jr. copping a pair apiece.  Trainer Joe Nelson also picked up a pair of wins.

The leading driver of the meet, through 24 racing dates, remains Bruce Ranger with 36 wins.  Switzer Jr. is second with 34, and Nick Graffam is third with 33.  A two-way tie for training supremacy continues between Jeff Deslandes and Chris Lefebvre with 18 all.

Live harness racing continues at Cumberland throughout the Spring and early Summer months with regular racing on Friday and Saturday each weekend.  First post is slated for 3:15 pm (EDT) during the extended pari-mutuel meeting, which runs through August 5.  An extra date has been added to the schedule, with Friday, July 28 creating a three-day weekend of harness action at the end of next month.

For complete race results, click here.

by Chris Tully, for First Tracks Cumberland 

  • June 25, 2023