Week 1

Day 1 Wednesday, August 3

I guess it doesn't matter where you start it really won't change anything. Myself I'm starting out looking at a pile of pulverized concrete at the old Harness track in Hinsdale, New Hampshire. The beauty of a virtual tour is that I can start today, five months from now on Thursday, August 4, 2016. There is a method to the madness, this will get me to The Northern Maine Fair, in Presque Isle, Maine for live racing. Only racing six days a year and being a dead end, this would be one track to get under your belt if you want to see live racing there. Today's journey will take me to five tracks and end up in Lewiston, Maine.

Turf ParadiseRockingham Park

The first stop today is Rockingham Park in Salem, New Hampshire. I pushed the original start time from 8 am to 9:30 am, so the track will be open when I arrive. Live racing has not occurred at Rockingham for many years. The track has simulcasting, poker and bingo, holding out hope it will someday become a casino, but that's probably a longshot at this point. Once a sprawling giant of New England racing most of it's land was turned into a mall and recently stables are being torn down for more development. This one might not be here much longer.

Turf ParadiseRochester Fair

From Rockingham were going to head an hour up the road to Rochester and the site of the Rochester Fairgrounds. Like Rockingham, Rochester hasn't  held live racing for many a year either. The good news is that the grandstand and track still exist, the bad news is that this will probably be a wasted stop, as you won't be able to access them. On to Maine.

Turf ParadiseFryburg Fair

 Here's a culture alert, have you ever seen a New Hampshire license plate? It has an image on it of the "Old Man of the Mountain". On the way to the next stop in Fryeburg, Maine, you'll be a little over an hour away from where the old man was. It might have been worth a side trip, but for the fact that a few years ago his face fell completely off, so not much to see. About an hour and a half after leaving Rochester, were crossing over into Maine and the border town of Fryeburg. Driving along Main Street you will soon find the fairgrounds, the track and grandstand are right off the road and you should be able to get to them. Fryeburg is still an active racing site, but doesn't run until October, when it closes out the Maine Fair Meet. From here we head to Oxford and a chance, for a game of chance.

Turf ParadiseOxford Fair

About an hour from Fryeburg, we come to Oxford, not very big, but it's got a lot going on. Going north on Main Street we find what we want, The Oxford Fairgrounds. A long history of fair racing was discontinued when the fairgrounds were taken to build a school. In 2003 the fairgrounds were relocated and racing returned, Oxford has the shortest fair meet in Maine, only four days, The grandstand is visible from the road, but don't know if you can get access to the fairgrounds. Leaving the horse track heading south you pass the other race track, Oxford Speedway, a well known stock car venue in New England, but Oxford's crown jewel is just ahead. The Oxford Casino is one of two casino's in Maine, it is open 24/7 and features slots and table games with a full service restaurant. You might want to see about some food and test your luck before the last stop.

Turf ParadiseWinners Circle OTB

Leaving Oxford, hopefully still with our cash, cause we got a long way to go. We head east for about a hour to Lewiston and the Winners Circle OTB, located on what used to be the grounds of Lewiston Raceway. The OTB is said to have racing memorabilia from the old track. As for the track itself, there's no sign it ever existed, the space where it was is half industrial park, half empty field. All that's left is to turn in, get some sleep before we start beating the bushes again in Maine tomorrow.

Day 1 Miles Cost Lodging
Today 306 153.00 100.00
Total 306 153.00 100.00

Day 2 Thursday, August 4

UnionUnion Fair

Day 2 will take us to five more tracks in Maine, ending up at the casino in Bangor, but no live racing yet. We leave Lewiston and head out to Union, the home of the Union Fair. Union is about 60 miles east of Lewiston and is the home of the Wild Blueberry Festival. Unfortunately were a little early, as the five day harness meet doesn't start for a few weeks. We'll take a quick peek and head back west toward Augusta and the Windsor Fair.

windsorWindsor Fair

It's only about thirty minutes to the next stop, The Windsor Fair, which this year holds nine days of racing, the most on the Maine Fair Circuit, including it's traditional closing ,Labor Day card. The track and grandstand are visible from Route 32, so you can at least get a good look and some photos, if you can't get inside the grounds. From here we cross back over I-95 and head for Farmington.

FarmingtonFarmington Fair

 It's only about 50 miles from Windsor to Farmington, but drive time is about an hour and a half, your not going to do much Interstate driving this leg. The Farmington Fair is located on High St. off of US Route 2, the stands run right along the road, so you can't miss it. The origins of the fair, dates back to 1840. Racing is held during fair week which is towards the end of September. From Farmington it's about forty minutes to our next stop, what I feel is the crown jewel of Maine Fair Racing, The State Fair at Skowhegan.

SkowheganSkowhegan Fair

The Skowhegan Fair, is also the State Fair of Maine. The fair with a week of racing are held mid August, so we miss again. The fair is located off Route 201 in downtown Skowhegan. The fair annually hosts the Hight Invitational, one of the highest purse races on the fair circuit, that race not only produced the track record at Skowhegan, but for all of Maine, when Achilles Blue Chip paced the mile in 1:51.4, in 2014. Now on to todays finally, hollowed ground and a night at the casino in Bangor.

BangorBangor Raceway

The final leg takes a little over an hour, where we end up at Bangor Raceway , on the grounds of Bass Park which has hosted harness racing since 1893. It should be late afternoon when we arrive so we'll head straight over to the parking garage at the casino and check in. The track and casino are about a block apart, so we'll take a walk over to the track, unfortunately were between the two periods when they run live racing here. It would have been nice to check off a live race visit, as Bangor, like Presque Isle is an out of the way dead end. After checking out the track we can head back to the casino and some simulcasting in the Race Book, then we can rest up for our first day of live racing.           

Day 2 Miles Cost Lodging
Today 214 107.00 150.00
Total 520 260.00 250.00

Day 3 Friday, August 5

Presque IsleNorthern Maine Fair

Day 3 Finally some live racing as we head North to Presque Isle and the Aroostook County Fairgrounds. This will be the only stop, about two and a half hours from Bangor. Post time for the races is 6:00 pm, hopefully some Sire Stakes races will be on tap. The hardest thing to decide is how to spend the day.

This would be a good day for a cultural stop or two, as being in Bangor, you won't get closer to the resort city of Bar Harbor, which in the day was the summer place to be for the rich and famous. You will also be near Arcadia National Park, the first National Park on the East Coast.

If your not the outdoorsy type, you can sleep in, or head to The Hollywood Casino and try your luck, whatever you choose, you should have an easy drive north. We overnight in Presque Isle, then start back south for a couple of light travel days and live racing in the Portland area. We wont be this far north for quite a while.

Day 3 Miles Cost Lodging
Today 158 79.00 100.00
Total 678 339.00 350.00

Day 4 Saturday, August 6

Well we had our first night of live racing and now it's time to make a decision. Were heading south towards Old Orchard Beach, it's the height of the season and a weekend, but we did our due diligence, booked early and have a motel on the beach for two nights, pricy, but how often you gonna do this. The problem, we still have three tracks to visit and do we want racing or beach time?

CumberlandCumberland Fair

  I guess we'll do the best of both worlds, lose a little sleep and head out early for the four and a half hour ride to the Cumberland Fair. From there we can grab some lunch and head for the motel. If you take route 9 off of Route 1 in West Scarborough on your , you go by a great summer seafood place named Kens, for me the best batter dipped fried clams in the world. If your coming from anywhere but New England, that may not sound great, but trust me. Now we have a few hours to kick back and enjoy the beach.

All right, the suns getting low, the beach crowd is thinning out, it's time to head for Scarborough Downs, our first commercial track of the tour. In the old days you wouldn't be making this fifteen minute trip for a few more hours, but a few years back they took out the lights and went to afternoon racing. Scarborough Downs has seen better days, if the old clubhouse hadn't burnt down and have been rebuilt, nothing would look new, but it's still a fun place to spend the day trying to pick some winners.

ScarboroughScarborough Downs

The pools here are measured in hundreds not thousands, they do simulcast their races, but for a few years now they don't provide video. One nice thing about Scarborough especially if you travel with pets is that to the left of the grandstand there's a parking area where you can drive right up to the track and watch the races from your car, kinda like a drive in movie for horseracing. Don't go too crazy on the betting, we'll need some cash for the  night life back at the beach.

Back at the motel you have to check out the honkytonk nightlife of Old Orchard Beach, take a walk on the pier, get some french fries sprinkled with vinegar and a must stop at Harold's, an institution on Grand Ave, where you can find last years treasures, or anything else your looking for in a unique environment. Before retiring, more choices, do we want more beach time tomorrow, or the matinee at Scarborough Downs, before heading to Topsham in late afternoon?

Day 4 Miles Cost Lodging
Today 293 146.50 220.00
Total 971 485.50 570.00

Tracks Visited Live
Week 1 14 2
Total 14 2

Weekly Menu     Week 2