09/20/2016 5:58PM

Bergman: No true rivalry in 2016 Little Brown Jug

Nikki Sherman
Betting Line could win trainer Casie Coleman her third Little Brown Jug on Thursday.

A year removed from perhaps the finest Little Brown Jug of all time, it’s hard to look at the race this Thursday and think there won’t be a letdown. For those in attendance, the chance to see Wiggle It Jiggleit, the 2015 champion up close and personal, may be the best opportunity to witness greatness with just 11 showing up for the final jewel in Pacing’s Triple Crown.

You can’t fault this crop for being short on major contenders. Horses don’t get the chance to pick the competition and breeders never know what will be the outcome of mating two athletes.

Reality is something we have to live with and the reality in this case is that great ones are not born every year.

If there is a different feel to this year’s Jug because of the incredibly short field and lack of multiple contenders, it’s hard to blame the two that are expected to fight it out. Betting Line has done everything right this year, except for those critics who were disappointed he didn’t appear for the Meadowlands Pace.

[DRF HARNESS LIVE: FREE LIVE VIDEO & real-time coverage of the Jugette & Little Brown Jug cards--Wed. (9/21) & Thurs. (9/22).]

Racing Hill has taken advantage of every opportunity afforded him and shined at the moments when Betting Line didn’t stand in his way.

The principle factor missing from Thursday’s Jug is that these two have actually done little to suggest an true rivalry. The last time they met on the track was in the Battle of the Brandywine, a race that saw Betting Line run away from his competition. It was also the last race in the career of Cane Pace winner Control The Moment.

And Racing Hill has shined, especially in his Adios victory, but at the same time he’s a horse that had a legitimate chance to win the North America Cup but didn’t. Racing Hill also looked to be in perfect position to win the Meadowlands Pace and failed to do so.

The half-mile track could be an equalizer of sorts or perhaps the first turn could be a measuring stick since Delaware is not very forgiving to closers. Yet for all the times Betting Line has been reserved from off the pace this year, there are still enough memories of the blistering early speed he possessed as a 2-year-old.

Sure there are nine others entered in the Jug and as the saying goes, anything is possible. Yet what we’ve seen routinely in this division is that there is a huge drop off in talent from the top three, now two, to the rest. It’s conceivable that the lack of entries indicates that enough owners in this business have taken a more realistic approach to shipping to Delaware, Ohio than in the past. With primary opportunities to race in sire stakes programs and individual stakes races, coming to Delaware to go heats when at best you may get a third-place check, is not bottom-line savvy. There could be two or even three heats on Thursday and it’s hard to say how even the best horses will recover if they have to go three heats in one afternoon.

While the male side of the 3-year-old set hasn’t had the drama we would love to see, the same can’t be said for their filly counterparts. For the most part, the duo of Darlinonthebeach and Pure Country have been the stars of the division. Pure Country is ahead in their battle, but Darlinonthebeach has been resilient coming back from heart issues and displaying true character and grit.

What happens between the two at Delaware is probably moot in assessing their overall talent since Darlinonthebeach drew outside (post 7) and Pure Country landed in the second tier with post 9.

The Call Me Queen Be fan club has every right to gripe with this assessment given her impressive performance in the final of the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes at The Meadows less than two weeks ago. While this daughter of Somebeachsomewhere has shown glimpses of high speed over the campaign, it took her a rather long time to find the winner’s circle. That said, anyone that witnessed that last performance recognizes that her explosive early speed may just put her in a better spot than any in the field of nine for Wednesday’s Jugette.

JAYWALKING: It’s nice to see the connections of Hannelore Hanover rewarded for the decision to supplement to the Maple Leaf Trot and finish a very game second then find an invite to the $1 million International Trot on October 15 at Yonkers. The 4-year-old mare has proven herself time and time again this year and her defeat at the hooves of Resolve did not come with a loss of reputation. Without doubt Resolve has been through many more battles and come out ahead against much stiffer competition over the last two years.

Wiggle It Jiggleit’s victory in Monday’s Quillen Memorial at Harrington in 1:50 suggested that the defending Horse of the Year was more than eager to bounce back from his recent defeat in the Ewart to Always B Miki.

The two rivals who have built enormous reputations on the strength of their battles this season could collide again on September 30 at Dayton Raceway. After that they may not meet again in 2016 until the TVG Final on November 12 at The Meadowlands.

It’s hard to say what time means anymore in this sport, but you have to think that for a 2-year-old pacer to go in 1:50 over a half-mile track, it means something. Downbytheseaside, a sharp second to Huntsville in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes final, had already proven that he has class given the noted heavyweights he met and defeated in the Quaker State. This past Sunday he got to showcase his enormous speed at Delaware and shattered the world record in the process. Trainer Brian Brown didn’t like drawing post eight in the Pa. final, but it appears his horse came out of that race fine and hopefully his Delaware victory will help springboard him as a major contender in this division this fall.