story by Sandra Snyder / quotes by Dave Briggs
In the last four weeks Jon Erdner anted up $137,500 in supplemental entry fees for his homebred 3-year-old trotting colt Jujubee. Erdner wrote the first check, for $75,000, to get the son of Creatine and La Cantera into the Kentucky Futurity, where he romped to a five and one-quarter length win in 1:49.3. The second check, for the sum of $62,500, got the colt a spot in the gate in last week’s Breeders Crown elimination, where he finished second to Cuatro De Julio.
In spite of that narrow loss, fans at The Meadowlands sent Jujubee and driver Andrew McCarthy off as their top choice in Saturday’s (Oct. 30) $650,000 final and the favorites never gave them a moment of doubt, firing to the front from Post 6 and controlling the tempo through fractions of :26.2, :55.3 and 1:23.4 before digging in down the stretch for a one length victory in a stakes record 1:51.2. Fly Light and In Range closed hard to claim second and third.
“I turned him and scored him down a little bit today and he felt terrific,” said McCarthy. “And it was a big first quarter, it really was, but I kind of wanted to take chance out of it today and get him where he likes it, and he dug deep and raced terrific.”
Greg Wright, Jr. trains Jujubee for Erdner and admitted he was a little nervous when the colt rang up a hot opening quarter with elimination winners Ambassador Hanover and Cuatro De Julio on his heels. As the mile unfolded however, the Meadowlands, PA resident started to relax and trust that the colt would do what he had done on 13 other occasions this season.
“I was a little concerned, but he had him in the right spot if he was going to be a champion, and he was,” said Wright, Jr., who had been working hard to get the colt in peak condition for Saturday’s final.
“We took his back shoes off today and that seemed to help him, free him up a little bit,” said the trainer, who was making his first appearance in a Breeders Crown final. “We did some work on him this last week. He came into the race (elimination) a little dehydrated from shipping and all that, so we were able to get him back to as close to 100 per cent as we could, and he just showed what a champion he is today.”
Of Jujubee’s 23 lifetime starts, only seven of them have been away from his home-base at The Meadows and only four have been outside Pennsylvania. As a result, the trotter has a sizeable fan club in and around Washington, PA and the winner’s circle celebration reflected his popularity as Erdner was joined by family, friends and the colt’s fans.
After 40 years in the business, Jujubee was Erdner’s first Breeders Crown starter and the Lakewood Ranch, FL resident, who drove up to New Jersey for the race, said the colt has given him an unforgettable ride.
“It’s been a whirlwind in the last month or so,” said Erdner, whose last Grand Circuit winner was One Tough Lass, who captured the 2008 Kentucky Filly Futurity. “Winning the Pennsylvania Sires Stakes has always been a goal of mine – a hopeful goal – and then it just kept rolling.”
In addition to the Breeders Crown, Kentucky Futurity and Pennsylvania Sires Stakes Final, the lightly-staked Jujubee also captured the Muscle Hill on Hambletonian Day, circling The Meadowlands in 1:49.4 for his first sub-1:50 mile of the season, and the Phil Langley Memorial at Hoosier Park. In 18 sophomore starts, Jujubee only missed the top two on one occasion and in his five race freshman campaign, all at The Meadows, he was never worse than third.
The colt earned a berth in the TVG Final with his Breeders Crown win, which Erdner said he would consider, but the owner/breeder is primarily looking forward to seeing what the winner of 16 races and $961,857 can do next season.
“We want to race next year. I think he’ll get even better if he comes back,” said Erdner, who christened the colt Jujubee after his go-to phrase when a name escapes him.
“I just thought that was good name because if I don’t know somebody, or can’t think of their name right off the bat, I’ll just say, ‘You know, Jujubee.’”
After his impressive October, Jujubee’s name will certainly not be one voter’s forget when it comes time to select the 2021 Three-year-old Trotting Colt of the Year.