by Ken Weingartner
Delaware, OH — The spotlight belonged to Limelight Beach.
Limelight Beach entered Thursday’s $647,500 Little Brown Jug for 3-year-old pacers winless in 12 starts this year, but the past meant nothing at the Delaware County Fair. Limelight Beach swept two heats to capture the Jug trophy, winning his elimination in 1:51 and taking the final in 1:50.4.
|USTA/Mark Hall photo
|Limelight Beach won the Little Brown Jug final in a time of 1:50.4.
The victory gave trainer Ron Burke and driver Yannick Gingras their first Jug champion. Limelight Beach won the 69th Little Brown Jug, presented by Fazoli’s, by 1-1/2 lengths over Let’s Drink On It, with Gingras pumping his fist triumphantly at the wire.
“This horse came up huge today,” Gingras said. “He went two big, big heats. We kind of got lucky a little bit in the first heat, there was a seam there and I was able to take it, but he came back the second heat and he was scary. He had plenty left.”
Limelight Beach drew post No. 1 for the second heat and took advantage of the starting spot, blasting to the front and controlling the action from there. Let’s Drink On It and driver Tyler Smith, who won the Jug’s other first-round elimination, got away second from post two but would get no closer the rest of the way.
Let’s Drink On It ended up second. Somewhere In L A — who tried to collar Limelight Beach with a first-over move on the backstretch — finished third and At Press Time was fourth.
“I was looking at the program and there was not a lot of speed,” Gingras said. “My horse, people had to respect his speed. Tyler’s horse got out of the gate a little bit better than I thought, but there was no doubt I was happy about it. I kept him moving along; I didn’t want to go too slow. He put in an awesome performance.”
Limelight Beach won six of 10 races last year, finishing the season with victories in divisions of the Bluegrass and International Stallion stakes. Most of the colt’s ownership group sold their interests in Limelight Beach to Burke in July, with the Ohio-based Wingfield Brothers stable — Charles, Robert, Thomas and William — staying on board.
“We just had too much fun with him last year and we stayed for this race right here,” Charles Wingfield said. “It’s just amazing. I can’t believe it.”
Burke Racing Stable, Weaver Bruscemi LLC and M1 Stable also share ownership of Limelight Beach, a son of Somebeachsomewhere out of the mare Benear. He was purchased originally for $25,000 under the name Marblehead Johnson at the 2012 Standardbred Horse Sale.
Burke bought the colt because Limelight Beach was eligible to the Delvin Miller Adios, which is contested at Burke’s home track — The Meadows. The horse finished fourth in his Adios elimination, failing to advance to the final. Two months later, though, the purchase paid an unexpected dividend.
“(The Adios) didn’t work out, so from there we moved on,” Burke said. “This was the Wingfields’ dream and our dream. It was awesome for all of us.
“It was a great day. We’re thrilled.
“I normally do not get over emotional but I am very emotional today. This race is the Jug and we purchased this horse because we knew he was the perfect horse for this track. Also because we knew he would be ready to go being from Brian’s (former trainer Brown) barn.
“Again I am emotional because winning a race like this shows how hard all of us, the entire team, work every day to make something special like this happen. I could never do it alone and winning the Jug just hammers that point home and is not just special to me but to our entire team.”
Let’s Drink On It, Limelight Beach win Jug eliminations
Let’s Drink On It won the first of two opening-round elimination heats for Thursday’s Little Brown Jug, taking advantage of a break on the final turn by favorite Lyonssomewhere to post a 1:51 victory at the Delaware County Fair.
|USTA/Mark Hall photo
|Let’s Drink On It won the first elimination heat for the Little Brown Jug in 1:51 on Thursday afternoon at the Delaware County Fair.
At Press Time finished second, followed by Beat The Drum and On Golden Ponder. The top four finishers advance to the Little Brown Jug’s second heat.
Lyonssomewhere left quickly at the start from post seven and was able to get the lead in a :26.4 opening quarter-mile. At Press Time settled into second place, followed by Beat The Drum and On Golden Ponder.
Beat The Drum made a first-over bid as the field approached the half-mile point, reached in :54.4, and Let’s Drink On It followed the outside cover. On the backstretch, driver Tyler Smith moved Let’s Drink On It three-wide and pulled alongside Lyonssomewhere as the field hit three-quarters in 1:23.
Lyonssomewhere went off stride coming out of the final turn, setting up a showdown between Let’s Drink On It and pocket-sitting At Press Time. Let’s Drink On It got to the wire first for Smith, trainer Joe Seekman and owners Tina Seekman, Larry Bond, Hal Hewitt and Vince Boido Jr.
“He was good,” Smith said about Let’s Drink On It, a son of Art Official-Letmedowneasy. “Everyone says protect the rail, but the horse doesn’t have a whole lot of gate speed.
“I got a little bit of cover down the backside, I wish it would’ve carried me a little bit farther, but I was able to cross over for the last turn. With (Lyonssomewhere), I’m not saying I would have beat him, but I would have taken a good run at him.
“When I saw what happened to Yannick (Gingras with Lyonssomewhere), I was hoping to get around Matt (Kakaley with At Press Time) and once I was in the clear with him my horse paced right to the wire.
“Joe keeps him in excellent shape and in his last seven or eight starts he’s never had a chance. It looks bad on paper but today he finally had a chance to shine and that’s exactly what he did.”
|USTA/Mark Hall photo
|Limelight Beach passed McWicked and Somewhere In L A in the stretch to win the second elimination heat for the Little Brown Jug in 1:51.
Limelight Beach charged through the stretch and passed McWicked and Somewhere In L A as they battled for the lead, earning his first victory of the season in 1:51 in the second of two opening-round elimination heats for Thursday’s Little Brown Jug.
Somewhere In L A finished second, followed by McWicked and Sometimes Said. The top four finishers advance to the Jug’s second heat.
Yannick Gingras tried to put Limelight Beach on the lead at the start, but McWicked held him off from post one. McWicked, who led through fractions of :27, :55.2 and 1:22.4, was challenged by first-over Somewhere In L A as they raced through the second half. The duo continued to battle into the stretch, but gave way to Limelight Beach.
Limelight Beach was winless in 12 starts entering the Jug elims, but had seven second-place finishes.
“I give all the credit to (Limelight Beach’s former trainer) Brian Brown,” said Burke. “I never had to do anything with him as far as equipment changes and he was in grade A shape when he came into the barn.
“I think he is a perfect horse for this course and he keeps improving with each start.”
— Kimberly French also contributed to this story
This year’s 69th Annual Little Brown Jug is brought to you by Fazoli’s