Andrew Topham is charting his course in harness racing

by Chris Lomon

The start of Andrew Topham’s horse racing career is off the charts.

At the age of 22, Topham, whose long list of horse racing roles includes that of assistant race secretary and charter with First Tracks Cumberland, is already making a name for himself in the Maine standardbred industry.

How he came to work at First Tracks Cumberland was anything but a straight path.

Racing and its equine stars fascinated Topham from an early age, including the times he would accompany his grandfather, Mike Timmons, to the backstretch to see the horses.

Timmons has been a fixture at the Cumberland fairgrounds for years.

“I started going to the races with my grandfather, who was buying and selling horses for as long as I can remember,” Topham said. “Growing up, I was around the barn, and hanging out at Scarborough Downs and different fairs around Maine.

“I always enjoyed it, but it was never something that I thought I would be part of.”

Topham’s association with racing was supplanted by sports and studies for a stretch.

He attended the Maine Maritime Academy to earn a degree in International Business and Logistics.

“I grew away from racing as I got a little older,” he said. “I was big into sports, especially football and hockey, so that was taking up a lot of my time.

“I ended up getting my degree and thought I’d come out of school doing something supply chain related.”

Horse racing had other ideas in store for Topham, who would reconnect with the sport in the spring of 2021.

Help was needed ahead of First Tracks Cumberland’s inaugural harness racing meet that May and Timmons quickly volunteered his grandson.

It was a jack-of-all-trades, anything but glamorous gig, for the then 19-year-old Topham.

“They needed someone to do maintenance, sweeping floors and cleaning up the bathrooms,” Topham said. “They didn’t have anyone else to do it, so my grandfather said I would. It started from there. I really enjoyed working with [harness racing operation] Black Bear and established some good relationships with the people there.”

As it turned out, Topham wouldn’t need to spend hours scouring job websites.

“Just before I was graduating, Black Bear approached me and said they could offer me a full-time role if I wanted it,” he said. “I thought, ‘Why not give it a try and see what happens?’”

Topham got his answer quickly.

He discovered the most rewarding part of his racing roles is the variety they offer.

No two days are ever the same, offered Topham.

“One of my favorite parts of the job so far is that every day brings something different,” Topham said. “It isn’t a traditional desk job where you are doing mundane tasks. You have no idea what every day is going to bring, so that makes it fun.”

Charting the races is a welcome task for someone who has always excelled at math.

“On race day, I watch the races as they go and then input the information into the computer afterwards,” he said. “At first, I was nervous — I looked at programs all the time — because you don’t know what really goes into charting a race.”

A month before starting at Cumberland, Topham went to Monticello to spend a week under the tutelage of John Flynn, who has been the charter at the New York racetrack for over 40 years.

“John was wonderful; he taught me everything that I needed to know,” Topham said. “That was a huge help because when I started at Cumberland, it felt as though I had done it before. I wasn’t overly nervous doing it.”

Ensuring the lines are correct is top of mind for Topham.

“It’s a very different way to watch a race, but it’s fun,” he said. “I enjoy it. I have always liked math and numbers, so it’s something I find very interesting.”

As assistant race secretary, Topham works closely with race secretary Rob Pennington to put the races together at Cumberland.

“That is very enjoyable as well, working to create the best card for our horse people,” Topham said.

Topham has long held great admiration for horse people at Cumberland and throughout Maine.

Working at the racetrack has elevated that respect.

“For the most part, everyone is very positive,” he said. “There is no doubt that everyone works hard, and people are always willing to help each other. It’s one of many reasons why I’m very excited about what Black Bear and First Tracks will bring to the industry and continue to grow it across the state.”

When he isn’t watching football or hockey, Topham dedicates some of his spare time to the sports card world.

Whether it’s buying or selling, he enjoys staying on top of the latest trading trends and new offerings.

“I love all things sports, whether it’s watching games or playing in a fantasy football league,” he said. “My big hobby is collecting cards or selling them. It is something I enjoy a lot. I guess it comes down to just loving everything associated with sports.”

As for what’s in the cards, career-wise, Topham doesn’t know yet what might be in store for him.

He is, however, excited about what the future holds. Not only for himself but for the Maine harness racing scene as well.

“I don’t know where I might be and what will be next,” Topham said. “I think things are looking good for horse racing here and I’m looking forward to what the future holds for racing in Maine.”

Having people like Topham as part of the industry is no doubt a big boost for its fortunes.

If a first-rate, team-first attitude is any barometer of success, Topham, who still helps clean up around the track after the races, sweeping up tickets and doing other tasks, is on track to be a difference-maker in Maine standardbred racing.

“I am very lucky to work with such great people,” he said. “Everyone has been so helpful to me. If I have any questions, they are happy to answer them. It’s always a nice feeling to go to the office and see so many people dedicated to making our racing product the best it can be.”

Just like Topham himself.