Opinion: Jug Day is a go-to event

September 22, 2017

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As a simulcast event it is… um… not as great.

by Dave Little

As Roger Huston likes to say: “BE THERE!”

It’s been quite some time since I’ve been to a Little Brown Jug. My memories of the 10-or-so I’ve been to are great ones.

The people lined up 10 deep around every inch of the half-mile oval’s outer fence. The chained-up lawn chairs that have been in place since Reagan was in office.

The ferris wheels, the tilt-a-whirls, the flea market-type shops intertwined with french fry, sausage, corn dog and ice cream stands.

Oh yeah, and the biggest race in the great State of Ohio, a place where the masses love the sulky sport.

Like every other harness fan, I fell in love with the scene. I looked around and saw somewhere between 40,000-50,000 people at a harness race.


But it didn’t take very long yesterday afternoon while sitting in the press box at the Meadowlands to realize the Jug Day program is much more about going to the track and not so much about watching it via simulcasting.

Like just about every big harness day, David Miller was there. So was Yannick Gingras and Tim Tetrick. Brian Sears, too. Then, there was the Northfield Park dynamic duo of Aaron Merriman and Ronnie Wrenn Jr. Brett Miller, Andy Miller, Scott Zeron, Corey Callahan. They were there as well.

All of the ingredients were there for a huge day. And for the 42,748 that were at the Jug yesterday, it was. It’s a different setting. It’s way cool. I know because I have experienced it.

But for the simulcast fan who follows the equine stars of the game, the card lacked firepower.

Emoticon Hanover and Caprice Hill, a pair of solid Grand Circuit-caliber mare trotters, went at it in the Ms. Versatility Final. But other than that event, and of course the Jug itself, the card was overloaded with Ohio-bred events.

There is nothing wrong with Ohio-bred events, and I realize the Delaware Fair has that type of racing. But the simulcast patron who showed up yesterday to play the Jug card wasn’t likely to be too familiar with the horses who normally race in the Buckeye State. Undoubtedly, many waited for the 16th race, when the Jug got underway. I found myself watching Freehold to pass the time, wishing when the card ended that they had more than nine races.

Don’t get me wrong. I did not expect a card like the one the Meadowlands has on Meadowlands Pace Night or Hambletonian Day. I did not expect a card like Mohawk has on North America Cup Night or the one they had last week, when Ariana G won the Elegantimage, What The Hill the Canadian Trotting Classic and Hannelore Hanover the Maple Leaf Trot. But you can’t deny that these events have races with star power every 20 or 40 minutes.

Here is what I think the Little Brown Jug Society can do moving forward: Spice up the card with an aged pace (What happened to the Senior Jug?) and an aged trot. Find a way to put $100,000 or $150,000 into the purse account for these invitational events. They would draw good horses because the best trainers are usually at the Jug. What’s another horse on the truck? What about another pair of races for 3-year-olds, one for open pacing fillies and another for colts who opted to skip the Jugette and Jug, respectively.

Okay, maybe the response would be tepid. I say write the conditions and see if they fill. Would Ray Schnittker have considered bringing Huntsville to Delaware for a $200,000 3-year-old open pace knowing he wouldn’t have to go two trips?

What about moving the Jugette to Thursday? Before you call me crazy, ask yourself if that would enhance the Jug Day card. The LBJ Society displayed great wisdom and courage in dropping the need for a horse to go three times on a single race card after 71 editions of the Jug. They, at least, might want to consider pushing the Jugette back 24 hours.

Also, 22 races on the card? Really? With five races that went for $3,000 purses? Will the Jug Day program have any less impact if they cut the number of races to 16 or 17? People only have so much money. It’s tough to ration any bankroll over an 11-race span, much less double that amount. And the card got underway at 11 a.m. The Jug Final went a little after 7 p.m. Come on! Eight hours-plus for a race card! Forget the lawn chairs. Bring a sleeping bag.

The simulcast show is in place. Dave Brower, Dave Bianconi and Wendy Ross all brought specific talents to the broadcast and did well. Both Huston and Jason Settlemoir call a good race. The graphics are old school, but get the job done. The elements are there for a highly successful simulcast presentation. They just need to upgrade the quality of the horses on the undercard.

Thus, the Jug as a simulcast event may not be scintillating, but the Jug Day experience itself is a stalwart, to be sure.

So simulcast fans, next year, do yourself a favor and take Huston’s advice. BE THERE!

Ariana G the one to beat in HOY race

When Yannick Gingras hit the wire first with Filibuster Hanover in the Jug, he helped another horse he drives regularly grab the lead in the race for Horse of the Year.

The great 3-year-old trotting filly Ariana G, with nine wins in 11 starts this year and almost $800,000 in earnings, now likely will take over the top spot in the weekly Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown Top 10 Poll that comes out every Wednesday morning.

Either Fear The Dragon or Downbytheseaside could have laid claim to being No. 1 but neither had enough in the Jug, which was won by Filibuster in 1:50.

The Jimmy Takter-trained Ariana G, unbeaten against her own kind this year, has won the 2017 editions of the Elegantimage, Simcoe, Hambletonian Oaks, Del Miller Memorial and New Jersey Sire Stakes Final. Her two losses this season came at the hands of a pair of top-notch trotting colts, Yes Mickey (Zweig) and Devious Man (Beal).

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