by Dean Hoffman
He was harness racing first “pacing machine.” Others have been called that over the decades, but Adios Butler was the original.
Few people could envision future greatness for The Butler when they saw him race as a 2-year-old in 1958. He flashed some ability at times, but did nothing to distinguish himself in a crop where Meadow Al was voted champion.
In 1959, however, Adios Butler was a different horse. He was a pacing machine. He cut through his adversaries like a buzz saw. He was trained by 26-year-old Paige West of Maryland, but West was savvy enough to realize that he didn’t have the driving skills or experience to steer Adios Butler against the top horses and drivers in North America. He selected Clint Hodgins, the wily, bulky Ontario native who was respected by his peers for his horsemanship and dry humor.
A record 18 pacers entered the 1959 Little Brown Jug, enough so that it had to be split into elimination heats. Meadow Al, a son of Adios, brought the crowd to its feet when he pulled off an incredible come-from-behind victory in the first heat, getting up over Culver Pick in the final strides for driver Joe O’Brien. (O’Brien had won the prior year’s Jug with Shadow Wave, another son of Adios.)
That performance was thrilling for the fans, but Adios Butler showed who was boss in his elimination heat by winning in 1:59.2, the fastest mile ever by a 3-year-old on a twice- around track.
The two sons of Adios, with a supporting cast of seven pretenders, returned to the track for the second heat. It was no contest. It was all Butler as he won in 2:00.4.
Adios Butler would go on to become the first pacer to win the Triple Crown that season and as a 4-year-old he took Standardbred speed to a new level when he broke the 1:55 speed barrier for the mile with a 1:54.3 time trial at The Red Mile.
This year’s 69th Annual Little Brown Jug is brought to you by Fazoli’s