A decade after Mr Feelgood won the 61st Jug, driver Mark MacDonald reminisced about one of his greatest career victories.
by Dave Briggs
In a quiet moment in the Jug Barn Wednesday, driver Mark MacDonald slipped over to Western Fame’s stall to give the colt a pat and some inspiration the day before the two will contest the 71st Little Brown Jug.
Ten years ago in this very stall, Mr Feelgood stood, virtually unnoticed, as a crowd gathered around his neighbor, straining to see the dog-sized speedster named Doonbeg.
“Everyone wanted to see the little horse. Adam Hanley was (Mr Feelgood’s) groom and he was standing there with Mr Feelgood and it was like a joke, ‘Hey guys, Mr Feelgood over here.’ But no one wanted to see him. He was put off, because he loved the horse so much and I said, ‘We’ll get them on the track, don’t worry about it,’” MacDonald said.
Get them they did. Mr Feelgood won the 61st Jug for MacDonald, Hanley, trainer Jimmy Takter and owners Lindy Farms of Connecticut, Diversity Stable and Canamerica Capital Corp.
MacDonald said he remember Takter working some serious trainer magic on Mr Feelgood prior to the Jug.
“He changed his gear because we couldn’t get him around Mohawk. He wore a giant rollover and I couldn’t get him around the turns at Mohawk and Jimmy warmed him up (in Delaware) and said, ‘Mark, the turns are so small here that he’s in and out of the turns before he gets running in, so I’m going to take the Murphy and the big pole and put a little headpole on him,’” MacDonald said. “I said, ‘I don’t know about that,’ but he said ‘Trust me’, because he said I don’t think you’ll be able to make any speed with him if he’s running out in the straightaways. He was 100 per cent right and the horse was so good. That was the only time he went straight all year. He was in and out on the turns, but then down the backstretch when it straightened up, he’d just go and we could never make speed like that. So, in hindsight, it did make sense. He was just thinking outside the box and that’s why Jimmy is as good as he is.”
MacDonald said the Jug win was one of the biggest of my career.
“You know, my mom and my dad were here. My family was here. They were all in the winner’s circle,” MacDonald said. “I remember seeing the aerial shot, there was almost 50,000 people here. I’ve won some Breeders Crown and North America Cup with Sportswriter, but this is just such an intense atmosphere for a driver. To win on that stage, it’s a heightened stage.”