by Dean Hoffman
Buckeye harness horsemen take their sport seriously because Ohio has long been a major player in the trotting and pacing business. There is a widespread program of harness racing at Ohio county fairs and many people raise or race a harness horse or two.
That’s why they rejoiced after Best Of All triumphed in 1967. It was the first time in Little Brown Jug history that a winner was owned in Ohio and trained and driven by an Ohioan.
Best Of All was the proud property of Samuel Huttenbauer, a Cincinnati meat packer, who loved horses and who had been a player on the Grand Circuit of harness racing since the early 1950s.
The fine-boned and long-legged Best Of All was trained and driven by Jim Hackett, who grew up just 40 miles down Route 42 from Delaware in the horse-crazy community of London. Furthermore, Hackett was the son-in-law of Delaware legend T. Wayne “Curly” Smart who had won the first Jug in 1946.
Best Of All was even bred by an Ohioan, although the records don’t reflect that. He was officially bred by Walnut Hall Farm of Kentucky, but that great nursery was owned by Cincinnati resident Katherine H. E. Nichols.
Best Of All had been an astonishing force as a 2-year-old, pacing more 2:00 miles than any juvenile in history. Every time he raced as a sophomore, however, he was facing a troika of talented pacers from the Billy Haughton Stable—Romulus Hanover, Nardin’s Byrd, and Meadow Paige.
Only eight entered the 1967 Little Brown Jug—Best Of All, the Haughton trio, and four lesser lights.
Best Of All got the first blood when he won the opening heat over Nardin’s Byrd, Meadow Paige, and Romulus Hanover. In the second heat, Nardin’s Byrd got revenue against Best Of All with Meadow Paige third and Romulus Hanover.
Romulus was withdrawn from the third heat and Best Of All took the lead past the quarter and never relinquished it.
The first person to greet the triumphant trainer-driver Hackett as he brought Best Of All to the Jug winner’s circle was his father-in-law Curly Smart. Both wore big smiles. Lots of Buckeyes wore big smiles on that Jug Day.
This year’s 69th Annual Little Brown Jug is brought to you by Fazoli’s