by Garnet Barnsdale
If you follow harness racing closely or even casually, you have heard by now that Walter Case, Jr. is returning to the bike this Saturday (Scarborough Downs entries @ USTA). That’s right, that Walter Case Jr., the one who has not driven full-time in 14 years, yet still ranks 8th on the all-time dash-winning list with more than 11,000 wins.
There is little argument that Case Jr. — a three-time national dash winning champion — knows how to get one to the winner’s circle. But his reinstatement in Maine has caused a buzz this week due to the reasons why and incidents related to Case Jr.’s banishment from the sport. He tried to kill his estranged wife, Nadine, and in 2003, Case Jr. was convicted of felonious assault and he was imprisoned for four years. Case also had drug-related and horse-kicking related violations in a checkered career, but, that didn’t stop no fewer than 20 trainers at Scarborough Downs to list him as first call on their horses this Saturday. There is no doubt in their minds that the now 56-year-old “Casey” can still point one to the wire first.
The return of Case has been polarizing, to say the least. He has a legion of fans that have been clamoring for his return for years, but it seems there are just as many who don’t believe he should be given a licence again.
In response to this statement from Case’s lawyer, Evan Fisher: “Everyone deserves a second chance. The commission’s decision is not only good for Walter, but it’s good for the sport and it’s good for Maine’s harness racing industry.”
Greg Reinhart (@GregReinhart) tweeted: “Yeah, too bad his second chance was like 18 chances ago.”
The owner of Twitter handle @itsallnecessary didn’t agree. He tweeted: “It’s about damn time. Best harness driver in history. I sure hope he also can drive at other tracks. Simply the best.”
Andrew Middleman, commenting on a post about Case Jr. in the Facebook group “Harness Racing History” said: “If he can’t keep his feet in the stirrups, I won’t bet the track he drives for,” while Roger Sobell commented “Hoping to seeing Casey again… the missing years are a reality and can’t be discounted.”
It seems everywhere you look on social media if Case’s return is mentioned there are those firmly in his corner that can’t wait to see him back on the track and just as many at the opposite end of the spectrum who say he’s had to many chances already and that his offences are serious enough to preclude his privilege of having a licence to race.
Any way you slice it, the return of the first driver in history to notch more than 1,000 wins in a single season is causing quite a buzz and you can bet there will be far more eyes than usual taking a look at Scarborough Downs this Saturday when Case Jr. makes his return.