09/17/2013 9:52AM

Keith Gisser: Little Brown Jug goes on, with or without Captaintreacherous

Fred Brown
Vegas Vacation leaves from post 5 in the first elimination of the Little Brown Jug.

We can wring our hands all we want over Captaintreacherous skipping the Jug. Yes, to a racing fan, it stinks. To a gambler, it may be good or bad. For the Internet forums and message boards, it has been a godsend, driving increased traffic.

Why won’t he be there? Who knows, for sure. Maybe it’s the heats. Maybe it’s the half-mile track, a circumference the Captain has never raced on in his career (and probably never will). Maybe it has to do with past treatment of a certain owner by Jug management. Ultimately, it does not matter. The owners make the call and that is their right. I don’t like it, but I really don’t want his owners telling me how to run my business, either. What do they know about reptiles? And what do I know about managing a top stakes colt?

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To be clear, the people who are complaining about heat racing are being disingenuous. Nobody skipped the Hambletonian when it went back to same-day eliminations and a final. Nobody. I am quite sure the Hambletonian’s purse, at $1.2 million, had absolutely nothing to do with it. Wink-wink. Nor did the fact that the Hambletonian is on a mile track. Wink-wink. The Jug purse this year is up to $550,000 with a small infusion of slots cash, and my gut tells me it will be a million-dollar race within two or three years. But right now, the comparatively small purse is a disincentive to multiple heat racing

Even without the Captain, this year’s Jug is still a highly competitive race and it is in Delaware, Ohio. There is no place like Delaware on Jug Day. I have been to several Hambletonians and a few Breeders Crowns (both full cards and the good old days of the partial cards). And the atmosphere is unlike anything I have ever experienced, even if the attendance is not quite the 50,000-plus advertised. The county fair atmosphere combined with big time racing makes the Jug a must see. But, I still need to pick a winner.

Due to a rule change, we have three short elimination fields, with the top three finishers making it to the second heat. While I would prefer two eliminations of nine or 10 horses, the Brown Jug powers that be have proven that they are responsive to horse owners and trainers by eliminating trailers in the elims. As a gambler, I don’t like it. As a horse owner, I love it. Call it social equine welfare. All but four of the 19 entrants are going home with a check for at least $3,000. Again, I don’t like it but it is what it is.

The first heat (race 13 on the second card of the sport’s longest day of harness racing) features the likely overall favorite, Vegas Vacation, who should easily win what appears to be the softest elimination from post five. A seven-time winner this year, he has earned twice as much as any of his competitors on the season and is racing well coming into the Jug.  Lonewolf Currier and Rockin Amadeus appear to be the main threats, but if you want to take a shot at a price horse in your exotics, use the rail horse, Eddie Sweat. His dam, Popcorn Penny, won a heat of the Jugette and the rail is always a huge edge at Delaware.

The second division is a wide-open affair where an argument can be made for any of the seven entries. I am going with the Canadian exacta here, boxing the two, Mach It So, driven by last year’s Jug winning driver Scott Zeron, and Word Power, who draws post six and gets Jody Jamieson. Mach It So had road trouble in the Simcoe and in the Battle of Brandywine, and will likely be favored. But the public may overlook Word Power, in favor of Beach Memories or Lucan Hanover. Word Power is fresh and has been hanging around against the top sophomore pacers all season. I think he is primed for a big effort.

The final elimination is the most intriguing. The dark horse here, likely to get a lot of play, is the oddly named Odds On Equuleus. He makes his first start since Robin Schadt sent him to trainer Tony Alagna, who also trains . . . wait for it . . . Captaintreacherous. He qualified comfortably at the Red Mile with the trainer in the bike and he is a colt I have always liked, but I will use him only in exotics. I will go with Adios champ Sunfire Blue Chip to win this elimination. The horse knows how to win (6 of 12 this year) and you could certainly do worse than have Yannick Gingras at the lines.

The second heat is all about the post draw and who can control the race, and while it is impossible to handicap until that preferred draw occurs (heat winners pull for 1-2-3; place horse for 4-5-6; and third place finishers for 7-8-9), I will go with Vegas Vacation to win it all; at least for now.

By the way, if you are in Delaware Wednesday evening, I will be hosting a handicapping seminar at Woodland Cigar, 46 N. Sandusky Street, in “downtown” Delaware. A rep from General Cigar will be there and it should be a great time. The event runs from 5-8 p.m. and I will be there immediately following the races, around 6.