09/20/2012 10:32PM

Harness Racing: Michaels Power wins 67th Little Brown Jug in straight heats

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Conrad Photo
Scott Zeron celebrates as he guides Michaels Power to victory.

Respect must be earned. Despite seasonal earnings north of $1 million, Michaels Power was somewhat shunned as one of the top 3-year-olds of 2012. All that changed after two victories on Thursday in Delaware, Ohio, when he became the 67th winner of the Little Brown Jug.

Winning the first heat is always part of the recipe for success in the Jug and both Michaels Power and Sweet Lou accomplished the feat. Michaels Power tripped out after sitting the pocket and found room for a 1:52 3/5 score while Sweet Lou did the dirty work on the engine and posted a 1:51 clocking.

The all-important post position draw would reveal that Michaels Power had drawn the rail with Sweet Lou just to his outside in the second heat.

“To get the rail inside of Sweet Lou was huge,” said trainer Casie Coleman, who became the second woman to win the historic event. “If the post positions had been reversed, I don’t know what would have happened.”

With the rail for the second heat, driver Scott Zeron took charge with Michaels Power. Despite a record setting :25 2/5 opening quarter prompted by a fast-leaving A Rocknroll Dance, the 23-year-old Zeron was unyielding.

“I was worried that he would keep pressing,” said the articulate Zeron on A Rocknroll Dance. “I really couldn’t afford to have him keep pressing on me. I had my mind set on cutting that mile and I was going to do whatever I could to do it. I was trying to put my whip up just to show Yannick (Gingras), please, please back off; I’m not letting you go.”

Gingras did back off and that allowed the composed youngster to get to the half in just 54 seconds, stealing a 29-second breather.

With mild pressure coming from Bettor’s Edge, Michaels Power powered past three quarters in 1:22 and looked to be in good shape.

A host of pursuers appeared to be in striking range but could not make headway as Michaels Power cruised under the wire a 1 ¾ length winner in a fast-for-the-day 1:50 world record for 3-year-old geldings on a half mile track.

Sweet Lou held second and Bettor’s Edge was third.

“I’m coming around that last turn and I have a lot of horse. I can feel he is ready to go and I’m just waiting,” said Zeron on the final three-sixteenths of the race. “I was just trying to keep Sweet Lou behind me. I was waiting, waiting to pull the plugs and I pulled them at a perfect time and at the head of the lane. I asked my horse to go and he gave me everything he had.”

The victory by Michaels Power pushed his career earnings to $1,181,252 for owner Jeffrey Snyder, a three-time Little Brown Jug winner. It may have also vaulted the gelding to the head of the class for pacing colts.

“Up until we won the Confederation Cup and entered the Jug, this horse got absolutely no press whatsoever,” said Coleman. “I have never seen a horse make a million dollars so quietly.”

As big of a win as it was for Coleman and Snyder, you couldn’t help but be impressed with the skill displayed by Zeron. Despite his age, the pilot never wavered from his plan and won on the biggest stage.

Zeron, whose father, Rick, is a mainstay on the Ontario circuit, just started driving regularly for Coleman this year when Mark MacDonald elected to try his luck on the U.S. circuit.

“I like to use the same driver for every horse, every start. So I asked Scott. I flew him down to Florida to come train my 2- and 3-year-olds and see what he thought and he took the job,” recalled Coleman.

“He’s a young up and coming star,” she continued. “He reminds me a lot of Mark Macdonald. I was worried about how his nerves would be, he’s a 23-year-old kid and this is the Little Brown Jug with 50,000 people here, but he handled it and was calm as a cucumber.”

Zeron, who admits that his decision to drive for Coleman was the best of his career, is hopeful that the Jug win will open some doors in the future.

“This race will help set my career on such an amazing path,” said Zeron. “In Ontario it doesn’t look really good right now; we are still waiting on a lot of news. Coming down here it kind of puts my face out for the American trainers and owners so I can make a possible transition down here.”

Michaels Power will get a couple of weeks off before heading to Flamboro for an Ontario Gold final and then to the Super finals at Woodbine. That is the plan according to Coleman, but to win Pacer or Horse of the Year he may need to have one more date with the divisional elite. That could come in the Breeders Crown.

“We have to take it step by step,” said Snyder about supplementing for the Breeders Crown. “As long as the horse is sound, we would definitely consider it. He deserves it.”

Jug undercard

Other standouts on the card included Pet Rock, who just missed qualifying for the Jug after finishing second in the Cane Pace at Tioga Downs. The talented pacer easily polished off an overmatched field in a strong 1:50 3/5 mile over a far from fast track and through windy conditions.

Dontyouforgetit bested Pet Rock’s 16-plus length win with a 17 ¾ length victory in a world record 1:55 3/5 mile for conditioner Jimmy Takter and driver Gingras.

Frenchfrysnvinegar went wire to wire in the $153,000 Miss versatility for driver Jody Jamieson and trainer Jeff Gillis.

Rockincam brushed and crushed in the Winbak pace with a sharp 1:50 score as the 1-5 favorite for Jim Morrill Jr. and trainer Richard Norman.

Total attendance checked in at 48,247 and handle held steady from 2011 at just over $2.8 million.