Local stars Fear The Dragon and Downbytheseaside headline a group of eight horses entered Saturday for Thursday’s 72nd Little Brown Jug for 3-year-old male pacers, presented by the Ohio Harness Horsemen’s Association, at the Delaware County Fairgrounds in central Ohio.
Boogie Shuffle, Chip Walther, Filibuster Hanover, Funknwaffles, Miso Fast and R J P complete the field for the $590,400 race.
This year’s race ushers in a new era for the Little Brown Jug, which previously required a horse to win two heats to be declared the event’s champion. Beginning this year, the race’s conditions were altered so that eliminations only establish an eight-horse field for the final later in the day. The Little Brown Jug champion is the winner of the final regardless of finish position in his elimination.
With eight horses in this year’s field, all will advance to the $401,472 final. The post positions for the final will be determined by the official order of finish in the $188,928 first heat, with the winning horse assigned post position one and all others taking their positions in the order they were placed in the first heat.
This year’s field exceeds the record for fewest starters in the Little Brown Jug by one horse. There were seven starters in 1948 and 1965.
Fear The Dragon and Downbytheseaside both are trained by Brian Brown, who is stabled at the Delaware County Fairgrounds. Fear The Dragon is the No. 1-ranked horse in the Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown poll while Downbytheseaside is third.
For the year, Fear The Dragon has won 10 of 12 races and finished second twice. He has earned $1.03 million for owner Emerald Highlands Farm and his wins include the North America Cup, Max C. Hempt Memorial, and Delvin Miller Adios. Lifetime, the son of Dragon Again-Armbro Cinnamon has won 15 of 23 starts and $1.26 million.
David Miller, who has won more races than any driver in history at the Delaware County Fairgrounds, will drive Fear The Dragon. Miller is a four-time winner of the Little Brown Jug and can tie Billy Haughton and Mike Lachance for the most victories in the race’s history.
Fear The Dragon will start from post position three in the first heat and is the 7/2 second choice on the morning line.
Downbytheseaside has won nine of 13 races this year and earned $1.01 million. His victories include the Messenger Stakes, Carl Milstein Memorial, and Art Rooney Pace. The Messenger is the second jewel in the Pacing Triple Crown, sandwiched between the Cane Pace, which was won by Huntsville, and the Little Brown Jug. Nineteen horses have won two legs of the Pacing Triple Crown, most recently Rock N Roll Heaven in 2010.
In his career, Downbytheseaside has won 17 of 26 races and earned $1.59 million.
Brian Sears, who won the 2013 Little Brown Jug with Vegas Vacation, will drive Downbytheseaside. The son of Somebeachsomewhere-Sprig Hanover is undefeated in six career starts on a half-mile track, such as Delaware, and a year ago became the fastest 2-year-old to ever compete at the fairgrounds when he won a division of the Standardbred Stakes in a mile time of 1:50.
Downbytheseaside is owned by Country Club Acres Inc., Joe Sbrocco, Richard Lombardo, and Diamond Creek Racing. He will start from post position five in the first heat and is the 2/1 morning line favorite.
Boogie Shuffle, trained by Mark Harder, brings a three-race win streak to the Little Brown Jug. For the year, the son of Well Said-Ciela Hanover has won five of 14 races and earned $207,079 for owner Fox Hollow Farm. His victories include the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championship.
Ron Burke, who trained 2014 Little Brown Jug winner Limelight Beach, sends three horses to this year’s race: Filibuster Hanover, Miso Fast and R J P. Miso Fast is one of the two horses to defeat Fear The Dragon this season. The other is Downbytheseaside.
Following is the draw for the opening heat for the 72nd Little Brown Jug.
1-Funknwaffles-Corey Callahan-John Butenschoen-10/1
2-Filibuster Hanover-Yannick Gingras-Ron Burke-5/1
3-Fear The Dragon-David Miller-Brian Brown-7/2
4-Miso Fast-Matt Kakaley-Ron Burke-12/1
5-Downbytheseaside-Brian Sears-Brian Brown-2/1
6-Boogie Shuffle-Scott Zeron-Mark Harder-6/1
7-R J P-Tim Tetrick-Ron Burke-15/1
8-Chip Walther-Marcus Miller-Erv Miller-20/1