Delaware, OH --- Vegas Vacation and trainer Casie Coleman hit the jackpot Thursday (Sept. 19) at the Delaware County Fair, winning the 68th edition of the Little Brown Jug in straight heats.
USTA/Mark Hall photo Vegas Vacation won the 68th edition of the Little Brown Jug in straight heats on Thursday at the Delaware County Fair.
Vegas Vacation’s combined time of 3:40 established the two-heat world record for 3-year-old gelding pacers on a half-mile track.
Coleman won last year’s Jug with Michael’s Power and became the first trainer since Tom Artandi in 1988-89 to win the race in consecutive seasons. Sears had never won the Jug prior to today.
The Little Brown Jug, with a total purse of $552,551, is the second jewel in the Pacing Triple Crown. Captaintreacherous, who was not entered in the Jug, won the first, the Cane Pace, on Sept. 2.
In the second heat, Urbanite Hanover and driver Yannick Gingras timed the start perfectly from post four and took the early lead. Lucan Hanover, who started from the rail, was second and Vegas Vacation, who began from post two, was third.
Urbanite Hanover remained on top through a first quarter of :26.3 and half in :54.3, but Vegas Vacation was already launching his challenge as the field headed to the backstretch for the final time.
Vegas Vacation took the lead as the field reached three-quarters in 1:22 and pulled away from there.
"He's a big strong horse that can take a lot of air," said winning driver Brian Sears. "He can race off the pace and he has a good kick. He was ready to go.
"I had more trouble on the turns than the straightaway but once I got him on the straightaways I got him going, then I could rate him on the outside and not really have to push him through the turns.
"It's a great surface and you don't need much grab and he was sticking a little bit.
"Every time I've called on this horse he has answered."Owned by West Wins Stable, Adriano Sorella, Anthony Beaton and Phyllis Saunders, Vegas Vacation has won nine of 15 races this year. Vegas Vacation is a son of Bettor's Delight out of the mare Don’t You Smile. Bettor’s Delight won the 2001 Little Brown Jug. Vegas Vacation’s maternal family includes 1972 Jug winner Strike Out.
Coleman extended her winning streak at the Delaware County Fair with Vegas Vacation’s victory. Since bringing her first horse to the fairgrounds in 2010 she has won the Jugette twice, with Western Silk in 2010 and Idyllic in 2011, and the Jug twice.
Coleman made a shoeing change on Vegas Vacation between heats, a move she felt was key to the second heat victory.
"It made a big difference," she said. "I wasn't happy with the way he was pacing in the first heat. I didn't tell you guys that as much because I didn't want to tip off the competition. I was confident we could fix it with a shoeing change and the reason Brian and I didn't speak about it was I didn't want the competition to know, but I'll let you guys know because you are going to write about it.
"With the shoes he was sticking too much. There was too much grab and this track is great. They do an awesome job but his shoes simply weren't agreeing with him so I changed them.
"I'd like to put a thank you out to the paddock blacksmith, Eric Wilt. He did an awesome job. I had him talk to my blacksmith at home, Jeff Boyd; he shod him exactly how we wanted him to. He does have sensitive feet so it's not easy to shoe him to put the nails back in the same holes. I know he's (Wilt) the same guy that fixed Shadow Play before he won the (2008) Little Brown Jug.
"It's the Jug. Simply put. It's great coming before a crowd like this that loves harness racing and $550,000 isn't too bad either. I know it's not a million and a million and a half, but to me there's nothing wrong with it."
Vegas Vacation, Lucan Hanover and Resistance Futile win opening-round heats
Vegas Vacation and driver Brian Sears made a three-wide move on the backstretch heading to the final turn and won the first of three $58,939 opening-round heats of the Little Brown Jug in 1:50 on Thursday.
USTA/Mark Hall photo Vegas Vacation won the first of three $58,939 opening-round heats of the Little Brown Jug in 1:50 on Thursday at the Delaware County Fair.
Lonewolf Currier grabbed the early lead with a first quarter of :25.2, with Eddie Sweat and Rockin Amadeus following. Rockin Amadeus made a first-over move as the field reached the halfway point in :53.3 and was still on the outside on the backstretch when Sears unleashed Vegas Vacation with his three-wide brush. The time to three-quarters was 1:21.4.
The final time equaled the world record for a 3-year-old gelding pacer on a half-mile oval, set last year by Coleman's Little Brown Jug champion Michael’s Power at Delaware.
"I think he's very talented and is quite capable of winning any of the big races," said Sears. "He still had plenty of pace left after that race and I think he will be in good shape for the final."
One race after Vegas Vacation used a three-wide move to win his first heat in the Little Brown Jug, stablemate Lucan Hanover and driver David Miller followed the same route to take the second of the three opening-round divisions in a world-record 1:49.4.
USTA/Mark Hall photo Lucan Hanover and driver David Miller took the second of the three opening-round divisions in a world-record 1:49.4.
Lucan Hanover’s time broke the world record shared by Michael's Power and Vegas Vacation for a 3-year-old gelding pacer on a half-mile racetrack. Casie Coleman trains both Lucan Hanover and Vegas Vacation.
In the second Jug elimination, Mach It So was the early leader, setting fractions of :26, :54.2 and 1:22. Beach Memories was second and Emeritus Maximus was third before launching a first-over attack and getting up to second place on the backstretch.
Miller moved Lucan Hanover and took the lead on the final turn.
Lucan Hanover, who has won seven of 13 races this year, is owned by West Wins Stable and Christine Calhoun.
"I was actually racing him early in the year and he was a green horse so we were just trying to train him," said David Miller. "He has not mentally matured yet and we've been racing him off the back. He was racing really well. Then I had to go away and a couple other guys raced him. We went back to racing him off the back and he's got a big kick if you can save it.
"I was actually surprised he raced that well. I raced him a couple weeks ago in Canada and he wasn't quite as sharp. He got passed in the stretch and I got a little concerned about that and (Coleman) said he was a little sick. But he raced just awesome."
Longshot Resistance Futile and driver Corey Callahan, sent off at odds of 24-1, won the third of the three first-round heats for the Little Brown Jug with a first-over attack on favorite Sunfire Blue Chip before drawing off to victory in 1:49.3.
USTA/Mark Hall photo Longshot Resistance Futile and driver Corey Callahan won the third of the three first-round heats for the Little Brown Jug in 1:49.3.
Sunfire Blue Chip and Johny Rock battled for the lead on the first turn before Johny Rock settled for second place on the rail. Resistance Futile was third, but moved to the outside as the field approached the half-mile point, eventually getting the lead as he reached three-quarters in 1:22.2.
Resistance Futile has won seven of 18 races this year. The colt is trained by Blair Burgess and owned by Burgess Stable, Champagne Stable, James Walker and Deo Volente Farms.
The time of 1:49.3 was one-fifth of a second off the fastest mile ever for a 3-year-old pacer on a half-mile track, a record shared by Somebeachsomewhere and Rock N Roll Heaven.
"This is the first time I've driven him, but he's been around," said Callahan. "He was in a late closer at the Meadowlands in the spring and I've raced against him a bunch so I kind of knew what he is like.
"He got a little bumpy here in the third turn but we were really pacing at that point so I couldn't just throw the lines at him.
"The other two were won off the back which isn't usually like that here, so I just wanted to get away like third. John's (Campbell) horse (Twilight Bonfire) really wasn't getting out of there that well so I thought I would follow them (the leaders). So when they dueled early I said I can't stay behind these horses and I'll get him out and give him a chance to be a hero and he stepped up."
-- Kimberly French also contributed to this report