by Dean Hoffman
A hush of anticipation fell over the crowd at Delaware on Jug Day as they’d just watched the third heat raceoff to determine the winner the Little Brown Jug.
The problem was that the finish was so tight that no one was certain which horse had won.
Announcer Roger Huston filled the time while judges waited for a final photo finish print by polling the racing fans.
“How many of you think Western Hanover won?” he asked and was greeted with a roar of applause.
Then he followed up by asking, “How many of you think Fake Left won?” Another ovation ensued.
The crowd was split but its sympathies were certainly tilted toward the pre-face favorite Western Hanover. He was trained by Ohioan Gene Riegle, an icon among trainers in the Buckeye State. Riegle had never trained a Jug winner and the best horse he’d ever had, Artsplace, missed the Jug the previous year due to illness. Gene Riegle really wanted to win the Jug. And legions of Buckeye fans wanted to witness that event.
But it wasn’t to be. The photo showed that Fake Left and driver Ron Waples had prevailed by a nose, thus denying Western Hanover a sweep of the Triple Crown for pacers.
With 23 entries, three elimination heats were needed to determine the pacers qualifying for the second heat. Gamma Ray won the first elimination, followed by Crouch taking the second. Western Hanover was heavily favored to win the third, but he was upset by Fake Left.
Ron Waples of Canada picked up the drive behind Fake Left when programmed driver Mickey McNichol was injured in an earlier race.
In the second heat, Western Hanover was still the 3-5 favorite despite having post five. Fake Left went right to the front and driver Bill Fahy sent Western Hanover in pursuit of him with a half-mile remaining. They dueled down the stretch with Western Hanover poking his neck in front just before the finish.
Four different horses had won heats, so all four would return to the track to duel for the right to drink from the Jug. Again Fake Left went to the front. Fahy and heavily-favored Western Hanover launched his attack late in the mile but fell short.
It was a frustrating afternoon for trainer Riegle and Western Hanover’s owner George Segal, but it was a joyous day for trainer George Sholty. In 1966 Sholty had won the Jug as a catch-driver behind Romeo Hanover and Fake Left gave him a training credit.
Both Fake Left and Western Hanover went on to be successful sires. Fake Left had a major impact on pacing pedigrees Down Under while Western Hanover was one of the greatest pacing stallions in modern history.
This year’s 69th Annual Little Brown Jug is brought to you by Fazoli’s