The Columbus, OH track’s 59th season includes the return of the Jug Preview in September after a 10-year hiatus.
by Jay Wolf
In a true sign that summer is almost here, racing action returns to Scioto Downs on Tuesday, May 9 as the south Columbus, OH track opens its 59th season.
Guests will immediately notice the new Hampton Inn hotel. The 118 room hotel sits just outside the track’s entrance and will offer a horsemen’s rate.
Another noticeable change to the physical plant will be the ongoing construction to the grandstand roof. During its annual structural test it was revealed the need for the repairs to the aging grandstand.
“We’ll have plenty of room for our guests on the apron, patio, Clubhouse and Penthouse,” said race secretary Jason Roth.
The Route 23 oval will play host to the $2 million Ohio Super Night on Saturday, Sept. 2. The top Ohio breds will battle in eight divisional finals of the Ohio Sire Stakes worth $250,000 each.
“We decided to move the Ohio Super Night to September 2nd to avoid a direct conflict with an Ohio State football game,” said Roth. “The Buckeyes later moved their game against Indiana to Thursday night.”
Back on the Scioto stakes schedule after a 10-year hiatus is the Jug Preview for sophomore pacing colts. The top 10 seasonal earners will compete for the estimated $150,000 preview on Sept. 9, the same night as Ohio State’s home football game against Oklahoma.
Leading the 71 nominations for the Jug Preview is the World Champion Downbytheseaside ($557,106 in 2016) and his stablemate Fear The Dragon ($228,391). Both colts are conditioned by the Ohio-based Brian Brown.
The Jug Preview will share a date with the $225,000 Jim Ewart Memorial Pace. The Ewart has quickly become a popular late summer event for older pacers. Last year, Always B Miki and Wiggle It Jiggleit slugged it out over the surface dulled by rain, with Miki edging Wiggle It by three parts of a length in 1:47.
Wiggle It Jiggleit is eligible for the 2017 edition of the Ewart along with other top older pacers, Freeky Feet Pete, Shamballa and Wakizashi Hanover.
The Sam “Chip” Noble Memorial Trot will not be contested in 2017.
“The Chip Noble Memorial was having trouble attracting a full field (seven starters in 2015 and 2016), so we diverted the purse money to the Preview,” said Roth. “We thought it was important to bring the Preview back.”
The $225,000 Charlie Hill Memorial Trot will be contested on the Belmont Stakes day card (June 10). Defending champ, Obrigado leads the list of eligibles. JL Cruze, Crazy Wow, Homicide Hunter and Natural Herbie are also on the eligibility list.
Completing the 2017 stakes schedule will be the Ohio State Fair Stakes (July 27, 29, Aug. 4 and 5)
and legs of the newly created Ohio Stallion Stakes.
This season’s driver’s race is expected to be another tight battle. The 2016 Scioto Downs driver’s race came down to final mile with Josh Sutton edging Chris Page by a single win, 172-171. The 35-year old Sutton scored five wins during the final card to surpass Page and secure the title.
Virgil Morgan, Jr. kept a stranglehold on the trainer’s title. The Grove City, OH native was Scioto’s top conditioner. Morgan should be the favorite to secure a record 23rd straight title.
Scioto Downs will continue to hold live races five days a week, with a 2 p.m. post time on Tuesday and Wednesdays through Saturdays at 6:30 p.m. through September 9, with occasional special holiday matinees on Sundays and Mondays.