by Ken Weingartner
Betting Line won the 71st Little Brown Jug, presented by the Ohio Harness Horsemen’s Association, with a world record performance in the $577,000 event’s second heat Thursday (Sept. 22) at the Delaware County Fairgrounds.
The Casie Coleman-trained Betting Line, who extended his win streak to 13 races with his Jug victory, stopped the timer in 1:49, equaling the fastest mile ever by a 3-year-old pacer on a half-mile track. Wiggle It Jiggleit, a gelding, established that record last year at Harrington Raceway. Betting Line’s effort, though, was the fastest half-mile triumph ever by a colt.
Betting Line, the 1-9 favorite in the second heat, took the lead from Western Fame just after the halfway point in the mile race for 3-year-old pacers and cruised to an eight length victory from there. Western Fame was second, followed by Dr J Hanover and Lyons Snyder.
It was driver David Miller’s fourth career Jug win and the third for Coleman.
“It was pretty easy,” Miller said after the second heat. “He was great both trips and I’m so glad for all the connections and the horse to win the Little Brown Jug.”
Miller is among five drivers to win the Little Brown Jug at least four times. Billy Haughton and Mike Lachance lead the list with five apiece while Miller, Stanley Dancer and Ron Pierce have four. Coleman joined four other trainers with three Jug triumphs. Haughton tops the list with six victories.
“I enjoy each and every one of them and this is really special,” Miller said.
Earlier in the day, Betting Line and Western Fame won their respective first heats. Betting Line captured his division by 2-1/2 lengths over Lyons Snyder in 1:50.4 while Western Fame won by 1-1/4 lengths over Big Top Hanover in 1:50.1.
But prior to the first heat, a controversy that had been brewing behind the scenes since early this morning came to a head. It involved a lost cell phone belonging to one of winning trainer Casie Coleman’s employees that was found on the backstretch with a message on it that trainers Ron Burke, Jimmy Taker and Tony Alagna brought to the attention of the judges because they interpreted it as a message directing her employee to give something to the horse this morning. Coleman explained that she was referring to yogurt that Betting Line gets twice a day.
The three other trainers, who had nine of the 11 horses in the Jug, asked the judges to scratch the eventual Jug winner and protested Betting Line’s participation with a threat to scratch their horses if their protest was not accepted. As a show of their protest, the three other trainers demanded that Betting Line leave for the post parade five minutes earlier than the rest of the field for the first Jug heat.
“The horsemen expressed their concerns to the Ohio State Racing Commission (OSRC),” said the official statement from the Little Brown Jug following the race. “Little Brown Jug officials worked with the OSRC and the horsemen and we are pleased that the horsemen participated in our event. At this point it is an OSRC decision.”
Betting Line has won 13 of 14 races this year and earned $1.37 million. He is owned by Coleman’s West Wins Stable, Christine Calhoun, and Mac Nichol.
“We’re just so excited he got the job done,” said Coleman, whose previous Jug victories came with Vegas Vacation in 2013 and Michael’s Power in 2012. “I love the Jug. Every single year I’ll be here supporting it as long as I have horses good enough.
“Coming to Delaware, Ohio — whether it be any horse, let alone a Jug or Jugette horse — I’ve never seen a fan base this big. The crowd here deserves to see a good show and they do a great, great job here. I’m just fortunate that we’ve had horses good enough to compete in this race.”
Betting Line is a son of 2001 Little Brown Jug winner Bettor’s Delight out of the stakes-winning mare Heather’s Western. He was purchased for $60,000 at the 2014 Standardbred Horse Sale.
The Little Brown Jug was the third jewel in the Pacing Triple Crown. The first, the Cane Pace, was won by Control The Moment while the second, the Messenger, was won by Racing Hill.
“He is not probably the best horse, he is the best horse that I’ve ever trained,” added Coleman. “There is no question and I have had a lot of nice horses.
“I love all my horses. I don’t know what it is with this horse. It’s the wind he has. He just never gets tired after a race. There have been many times he has just been sitting, where I haven’t been a happy camper with where he has been sitting coming around the last turn and he just mows them down.
“His heart. He just loves to win. I’ve never been able to train a horse this good and I don’t think many people have. Heart, intelligence, speed, it’s all a great combination. He’s just the perfect animal.
“If there was one thing I could change on him, I would change nothing. He’s just an awesome animal. Ones like these don’t come along very often.”
Betting Line, Western Fame win Jug opening-round heats
Betting Line won for the 12th consecutive time, capturing the first of two opening-round heats of Thursday’s Little Brown Jug by 2-1/2 lengths in 1:50.4 at the Delaware County Fairgrounds. Lyons Snyder was second, Dr J Hanover third, and Check Six fourth.
Check Six set the pace for much of the mile, hitting the quarter in :27.1, half in :56, and three-quarters in 1:23.4. But by that time, first-over Lyons Snyder had pulled even and second-over Betting Line was ready to go three wide coming out of the final turn.
Betting Line, who was fifth for the first three-eighths of the race before flushing the cover of Lyons Snyder prior to the halfway point, pulled away from his foes in the stretch and won comfortably for trainer Casie Coleman.
“It worked out just kind of like I thought it would,” winning driver David Miller said. “(Check Six) left and I was able to pick up good cover. He actually took me farther than I thought he would. My horse was strong the whole way and anxious to go anytime I asked him. He finished up good. He was good and strong all the way to the wire.”
Western Fame and driver Mark MacDonald controlled the race from post one, parking out favorite Racing Hill for much of the mile, on their way to a 1:50.1 win in Thursday’s second opening-round heat of the Little Brown Jug for 3-year-old male pacers.
Big Top Hanover, Racing Hill, and Manhattan Beach rounded out the top four.
MacDonald hustled Western Fame off the gate and protected the inside spot from Racing Hill, who started in post two. After reaching the quarter in :26.4, Racing Hill challenged Western Fame for the lead, but was unable to get to the front. He briefly ducked back to third as the half was reached in :53.4, but soon thereafter was back on the move again.
Western Fame rebuffed Racing Hill again as they hit three-quarters in 1:22.1 and then held off Big Top Hanover by 1-1/4 lengths for the victory.
“It was kind of an all-or-nothing drive, I guess,” said a laughing MacDonald, who drove Western Fame for trainer Jimmy Takter. “The first heat, there wasn’t a whole lot of action so I wanted to give the crowd something to see.
“We had the rail; it’s tough when you get stuck in the two hole at Delaware, not too many horses win out of the two hole. Jimmy had a lot of confidence in the horse. He thought he would be really good over this track and he showed some grittiness today. He never got a breather. When I called on him halfway down the stretch, he paced away for me.
“It was the perfect opportunity for him to show his speed. He has always had it, but quite possibly today he could finally really show it. He has always raced well. You can see that from his last race in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes final.”
Western Fame is owned by breeder Brittany Farms. He was the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championship runner-up to Check Six on Sept. 10.
Racing Hill and Check Six were scratched from the second heat.
— Kim French also contributed to this report