Courtly Choice wins Little Brown Jug

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Ted Black

September 21st, 2018

Much of the drama surrounding the latest edition of the Grade I, $600,000 Little Brown Jug for three-year-old pacing colts at the Delaware, Ohio Fairgrounds on Thursday afternoon ended two hours before the $400,000 final of harness racing's third Triple Crown jewel.

As expected, favored Lather Up (Montrell Teague) lived up to his role as the 1-9 favorite in the first $102,000 elim to lead through honest fractions of 27, 55.3 and 1:22.4 en route to a two-length score in 1:49.3. The sophomore son of I'm Gorgeous trained by George Teague, Jr. for owner-breeders Gary & Barbara Iles, recorded his 11th win from 13 starts this year and pushed his seasonal earnings toward $720,000.

But all of the drama unfolded in the second $102,000 Jug elim, which featured Stay Hungry (Doug McNair), who was seeking to sweep the Triple Crown having already won the Cane Pace at the Meadowlands and the Messenger Stakes at Yonkers. Sent out as the 1-2 favorite, Stay Hungry lived up to his billing by scoring in 1:50.4 before disqualified from first and placed fourth behind Hayden Hanover who he had impeded in the lane.

Dorsoduro Hanover (Matt Kakaley) was promoted to first and Courtly Choice, who broke stride from the rail before the start then rallied to get third, was placed second and Hayden Hanover was put in front of Stay Hungry. Of course, that didn't completely prevent Stay Hungry from winning the Triple Crown, but it meant that he would either get post seven or eight for the final and trainer Tony Alagna opted to bypass that draw and scratched him from the final.

Nearly three hours later when the prolonged Jug final finally occurred, Courtly Choice (David Miller) stayed flat and overcame a long, first over journey to overhaul favored Lather Up in the lane and prevail in 1:49.4. A Maryland-bred son of Art Major trained by Blake Macintosh, Courtly Choice rebounded from a costly break in the elim to notch his 10th win from 14 starts this year and push his seasonal earnings toward $900,000 and move one step closer to champion three-year-old colt pacer and Maryland-bred harness horse of the year.

Lather Up settled for third in a decent effort and cannot be entirely counted on as of yet for divisional honors. The other serious contenders for pacer of the year will be at Hoosier Park in Indiana on Friday evening and then all of the candidates still have the Breeders Crowns this fall at Pocono Downs.

Several races before the Jug final, Broadway Donna (David Miller) rallied from midpack for a nose victory in 1:53.1 in the $107,000 Ms. Versatility final for older trotting mares. Several races before the Jug elims it was I'm Your Captain (Andy Miller) who prevailed as the 7-5 favorite in the $111,000 Old Oaken Bucket for three-year-old colt & gelding trotters in 1:55.2 for trainer Julie Miller.

A pair of Ohio Breeders Championship events for two-year-old colt pacers proved to be revealing. Rock Candy (Ronnie Wrenn, Jr.) rebounded from an unlucky journey in the $275,000 OHSS final at Scioto Downs to score by six lengths in 1:51.3, then Discolator won the second division in a modest 1:54.4.

One day earlier the lone heat of the diluted $250,000 Jugette for three-year-old filly pacers - a fate the Jug seems destined for in the near future - Alexa's Power (Tim Tetrick) rallied from well off the pace to score in 1:51.3 for trainer Jim Campbell while favored Youaremycandygirl (Yannick Gingras) lost all chance early with a miscue. Alexa's Power now owns nine wins and $430,000 banked from 16 starts this year.