09/22/2015 6:13PM

Gisser: Handicapping the Jug Day card

Derick Giwner
The Delaware County Fairgrounds.

It’s the best week of the year. I say it every year. It’s Jug week. Unfortunately, once again, due to a combination of religious obligation, real job requirements and soccer coaching responsibilities, I will miss it. This two-year streak of not being in Delaware is the longest I have experienced in the past 38 years.

Fortunately, we have technology these days. We are no longer expected to wager off a program that provides the last three finishes and no charted lines, as we did in the mid and late 70s. We have past performances that can be downloaded and we have online platforms and local simulcasts. So even though I won’t be at Delaware, I will once again be doing my part to pay some of Marketing Director Phil Terry’s salary.

We will get to the Jug shortly, but let’s consider a few things about Jug Day. If you are looking for value, you may have to redefine the term to mean a double-digit exacta. Delaware can play very chalky and with a number of whales pounding $100 exacta tickets, favorites are out of reach for the common man. This condition gets worse as the day gets later and with a possible 19 races on the card, we need to look at early races to have any real shot at value, and even then, if one of the big boys is thinking the way we are, we need to accept our short payoff and move on.

Starting in race one, let’s look at an exacta of (3) DJ Lance with (4) McClleland. DJ Lance was a decent second on Monday against better, while McClelland recently moved into the powerful Virgil Morgan barn. Virgil calls on David Miller to drive and with apologies to Josh Sutton, that’s an upgrade. The problem with this race is a short, seven-horse field, so at best we are looking at a $10-12 exacta. While I am a big fan of playing boxes, I would make an unbalanced play here. Rather than playing a $10 exacta box, I would play a $5 box and a $10 straight 3-4. If we hit that way, we maximize profits. If it comes the other way, we make a few bucks, lick our wounds and move on. While there are limited television monitors at Delaware, make sure to keep an eye on the exacta will-pays. Obviously, if the potential payoff is more than we anticipate, a straight box makes sense. If a big player jumps on the same ticket and we are looking at a $5.20 exacta, double your money, as my friend Jay always said. Take it, fold it in half and return it to your wallet.

In race four, a division of The Standardbred that, unfortunately, is only worth $23,100, the standout is (2) Spider Man Hanover. This Brian Brown-trainee (you will see a lot of those Thursday) comes off a second-place finish n the $350,000 Pennsylvania Sires Stakes final and has earned nearly $180,000 in just six starts, five of which have seen him finish second or better. Watch the board here, but I think (6) Keystone Dylan, trained by Ron Burke and driven by Dave Palone, will get some play despite the outside draw, and a few others may spread the money around. If you are looking for a longshot, who might not be at post-time, use (1) Mr D’s Dragon. He has missed some time, but his qualifier at The Red Mile was a good one and it may be a case of fresh and more mature colt being ready to take on these. And getting Brett Miller, who recently posted career win 7,000, can’t hurt.

In the eighth race, the final of the Signature Series, Jamie Coffy’s Bourbon St Hanover stands out, especially if Corey Callahan drives. It’s another disappointingly short field, making a trifecta play nearly impossible, but if I had to I would go 2-4-All.

There are two Jug eliminations this year and I am really at a loss. The first split seems to be a wide-open affair. Let’s give a slight call to Dude’s The Man, who has danced most of the big dances and been competitive at all times. Lost For Words has been another consistent one who could step up and Rockin In Heaven is my hunch play. He draws well and Americans don’t know driver Trevor Henry that well, so he might add value.

While I was a latecomer to the Wiggle It Jiggleit party, after seeing him win at Northfield, I have become a believer. But he doesn’t get a great draw and other than a qualifier (granted, a very, very good one), he has been off for a month. With 18 starts on the year, the break makes sense, but will he be sharp enough for a two-heat (or more) Jug effort? I have a hunch he is vulnerable and last year’s standout Artspeak comes off a lifetime best in the Simcoe and draws the rail. Let’s key those two, but I will also play some crazy exacta that leaves Wiggle It Jiggleit off the ticket. Again, the board and the will-pays will tell me what to do. Can I get 7-2 or better on Artspeak? I doubt it, but if I can, I might just stick with a win play.

With a wide-open first split and a vulnerable favorite in the second elim, I am not even going to venture a guess on the second heat, although IF Wiggle It Jiggleit loses his split, I will be rooting for him to win the second heat to force a race-off. My plays there will be a post-time decision. Good luck, be safe and go cash. See you next month.

[DRF HARNESS LIVE: Real-time insights + Watch the full cards LIVE on Jugette & Jug Day]