SCARBOROUGH — For those in the harness racing industry like Kim and Wendy Ireland, it’s a typically long time between seasons. But now that another has arrived, the Irelands are excited to get started.

And for Scarborough Downs, it’s not just any season. The track opens its 60th season Saturday with 12 races with a 4 p.m. post time. On Sunday, there will be 14 races with a 1:30 p.m. post time.

The Downs will have its usual big races but with an added flare.

“It’s a milestone to have survived for 60 years,” said Susan Higgins, Scarborough Downs’ director of advertising.

“We plan on celebrating heartily this year. We’re planning like crazy and shining up the place for everyone.”

The Irelands, a husband-and-wife team from West Gardiner, train and drive horses that were named pacer and trotter of the year in 2009. Mr. Nice Guy was named Pacer of the Year and Kerogen was selected Trotter of the Year.

The Irelands, along with other owners, trainers and drivers, have pointed to opening day.

The Irelands, who grew up in families that trained and raced, don’t race out of state in the winter, so the opening of the racing season here is special. They also race their horses in Bangor and at county fairs when those seasons start.

“It’s definitely great to get back into racing season,” said Wendy Ireland.

“The mild winter made it conducive to get our horses out early. Scarborough Downs is just a great place to race. They do a good job promoting harness racing and they always make us feel welcome. The purses are larger now.”

Kerogen is a 7-year-old who set a state record for aged stallion trotters. He went 1:57.1 in the mile at Bass Park in Bangor last May 24. Kerogen had 11 wins last year. Mr. Nice Guy had 10 wins and will race Saturday while Kerogen will make his debut Sunday. The Irelands have three other horses slated to race this weekend.

Mr. Nice Guy and Kerogen are owned by Lew Haden of Pleasanton, Texas, who has a home in Wilton.

“The fans look forward to seeing those horses,” said Higgins.

Scarborough Downs’ season runs from Saturday to Sept. 12. It has weekend dates now, but adds Friday dates in three weeks and then Thursday dates on June 3.

Post times are 4 p.m. for Thursdays and Fridays.

The Downs closes for just over a month for the county fairs in the fall, then resumes Oct. 15 and closes Dec. 19.

The track will hold its Mid-Summer Classic Pacing Event on July 17.

“We’re going to have our big anniversary celebration then,” said Higgins.

Other highlights of the season include Family Fun Day, Aug. 8; the Joe Ricci Memorial Trot, Aug. 14; and the Maine Standardbred Breeders Stakes finals in September and October.

 

Staff Writer Tom Chard can be reached at 791-6419 or at:

[email protected]