by Dean Hoffman
It was the Golden Anniversary of the Little Brown Jug and the Delaware County Fair pulled out all the stops to make sure it was a memorable occasion. Officials at Delaware were proud of a half-century of making headlines with the Jug and they’d proven that they knewhow to put on a great show for the public.
Except that there were some things that they could not control.
They could not control the weather, which turned out to be rainy on Jug Day as gray, overcast skies dampened the festivities.
Also, they couldn’t control the fact that the best 3-year-old pacer of the ’95 season, Jenna’s Beach Boy, was not in the race. After starting his sophomore campaign brilliantly, he was forced to take a three-month hiatus in mid-summer and hadn’t even started in a race for 90 days until just before the Jug.
That left a wide open field to fight it out for honors in the Golden Jug.
One shooting start that had vaulted into prominence just before the Jug was Nick’s Fantasy, a Maryland-sired gelding. He didn’t seem to belong with the best in the world until he started winning with ease in late summer. When he won the Jug Preview at Scioto by six lengths, he was Delaware-bound.
When entered in the Jug, Nick’s Fantasy picked up a new driver in John Campbell, the sport’s leading reinsman. Campbell had won virtually every major event in harness racing several times, including that year’s Hambletonian in early August with Tagliabue.
After his Hambletonian victory, Campbell demonstrated his class by agreeing to fly from his home in New Jersey to Ohio to drive a one horse at a county fair.
Why would the world’s leading harness driver do that?
Because local horseman Don Sipe had always wanted to have a horse good enough for John Campbell to drive, but that dream never came true. Now Sipe was ill with cancer and it seemed unlikely that his dream would ever be realized.
But Campbell came to the small county fair in Mt. Gilead and drove Sipe’s pacer Win Sum Duke to a second place finish.
A month later in Delaware, Campbell did even better with Nick’s Fantasy in the Jug. The gelding had post one in his elimination heat and Campbell put him on the front end and never looked back. Nick’s Fantasy won easily.
Luck was with Campbell and Nick’s Fantasy in the next heat as they again had post one, but this time raced from off the pace to win by four lengths.
Don Sipe was too ill to attend the Jug, but listened to it on the radio. He smiled when he heard that John Campbell drove the winner of the 50th Little Brown Jug. And a few hours later Don Sipe died knowing that the same driver had made his own dream come true.
This year’s 69th Annual Little Brown Jug is brought to you by Fazoli’s