Seven things to know about the Little Brown Jug
1. Just the facts
The Little Brown Jug, a leg of the Triple Crown for three-year-old pacers, was inaugurated in 1946. While the Triple Crown's two other legs, the Cane and the Messenger, have found homes at different tracks over the years, the Little Brown Jug has always been held over the half-mile oval at the Delaware County (Ohio) Fair. Crowds of 45,000 or more in recent years make it the most attended harness race in the country.
2. How the race is run
The Little Brown Jug is one of the few major harness races still contested in multiple heats. To win the Jug a horse must win two heats. The first heat is generally divided into two or three elimination races. There will be only two elimination heats in Thursday's renewal, with the first first four finishers in each elimination advancing to the final heat. The winners of the two elimination heats draw posts 1 and 2 in the final, the elimination runners-up draw posts 3 and 4, and so on. If an elimination heat winner wins the final, he is declared the Jug winner. If the final heat winner did not win an elimination, there will be race-off among the three heat winners. The last Jug race-off occurred in 2000.
The late Billy Haughton, memorialized every year with a stakes at the Meadowlands, is the all-time winningest trainer in the Jug's 70-year history. He trained six winners from 1955 through 1985, a year before tragically passing away following an accident at Yonkers Raceway. Haughton drove five of his six Jug winners, a record he holds with the now-retired Mike Lachance.
The famed Hanover Shoe Farm of Pennsylvania has bred the most Jug winners (14) beginning with Ensign Hanover in the 1946 inaugural. Its most recent winner was P Forty Seven in 2005.
4. Triple Crown
Since 1956 when the pacing Triple Crown was established, only 10 horses has swept the series, the most recent being No Pan Intended in 2003. There will be no sweep of the Crown this year as Control the Moment won the Cane Pace at the Meadowlands, while Racing Hill captured the Messenger Stakes at Yonkers.
5. The favorites
This year's Jug attracted only 11 entries, the smallest field since 1980 when seven took on Niatross in a single first-heat elimination.
Betting Line and Racing Hill are the 3-5 morning line favorites in their respective elimination heats on Thursday. Betting Line has won 11 of 12 starts this year, including open company wins in the North America Cup, Carl Milstein Memorial, Battle of Brandywine, and Simcoe.
In addition to the Messenger, Racing Hill has also captured Max Hempt Memorial, and the Adios. He finished four lengths second to Betting Line in the Battle of Brandywine in their last meeting.
6. Only the horses get rich in the Jug
Pari-mutuel wagering on the Jug was first offered in 1966. Eventual winner Romeo Hanover was such an overwhelming favorite that he was barred from the wagering and a $4 win mutuel was paid out on runner-up Good Time Boy.
While the records of elimination payouts is incomplete, in the 50 years since wagering was introduced 34 Jug winners have paid off at even-money or less in the final heat. This is not surprising as elimination winners are favorably drawn with inside posts in the final and thus heavily backed.
The highest-priced final heat payoff was $114.80 by George Scooter in 2000, although he would go on to lose a four-horse race-off. The highest win mutuels on a horse declared the Jug winner were Happy Escort ($13.20) in 1978 and Million Dollar Cam ($11.40) in 2002.
7. Supporting features
Racing at the Delaware County Fair is spread out over four days. Other features during the week include the Standardbred Stakes for two-year-olds of both sexes and gaits; the Jugette for three-year-old filly pacers and the Buckette for three-year-old filly trotters on Wednesday; and the Jug undercard on Thursday includes the Old Oaken Bucket for three-year-old trotters and the Ms. Versatility for aged mare trotters.
You can also check out Vance Hanson's thoughts on attending his first Little Brown Jug this week here.