09/17/2013 12:17PM

Little Brown Jug: Collins excited about Twilight Bonfire

Twilight Bonfire won a race at the Delaware County Fairgrounds in 2012.

Scioto Downs-based Danny Collins is excited about his Little Brown Jug prospect Twilight Bonfire. The runner-up in the $1 million North America Cup in June, is Collins’ first entry in the Triple Crown event and needless to say expectations are running high.

“We didn’t come here to be in it. We’re here to win it,” said Collins on his way to the Delaware County Fairgrounds with Twilight Bonfire.

“I’m going to take him a trip tomorrow (Tuesday) over the track. I won’t have a stopwatch,” said Collins, with the belief that his horse, fresh off a second-place finish in Friday’s $260,000 Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championship at The Meadows is primed and ready for battle.

[DRF HARNESS: Watch all the action on Jugette and Jug Day on DRF! Plus video pick four analysis!]

For many in the field of 19, the Little Brown Jug will be the first time over the famed half-mile track in Delaware, Ohio. For Collins and Twilight Bonfire, it will be a return to the sight of last year’s 1:55 victory in a division of the Standardbred.

“He handled the track very well here last year,” said Collins.

With two wins in 12 starts this year, Twillight Bonfire has earned $488,641 in 2013 on the strength of some major efforts in key races. He finished third behind Sunshine Beach and Captaintreacherous in the $500,000 Battle of the Brandywine at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs on August 17.

A fifth-place finish in the Cane Pace on Labor Day at Tioga was not as disappointing to Collins as one might expect.

“It’s a good thing there were no eliminations necessary for the Cane,” Collins said. “He had gotten a little sick after the Battle of the Brandywine and he was just getting over it prior to the final.”

Collins admits the Captaintreacherous has been the number one problem that Twilight Bonfire has had to deal with this year.

“It didn’t hurt my feelings that he didn’t enter the Jug,” said Collins bluntly.

What Twilight Bonfire will have to deal with on Thursday is the need to win the first heat and have the opportunity to come back and annex a second heat to win the title.

“I’m happy to have the driver I have (John Campbell) in my corner and I’m happy we drew the rail,” said Colllins.

While the Hall of Famer Campbell is an essential cog in the process, Collins is well aware of the advantages of drawing inside, especially at the Delaware County Fairgrounds.

“John (Campbell) had told me before the draw that we’re probably going to have to change our tactics with the horse for the Jug. He said it depends who draws inside of us,” Collins said. “Now we won’t have to worry about that part.”

Twilight Bonfire starts from the rail in the fifteenth race, the $58,939 third division of the first heat of the Little Brown Jug. He’ll meet a field of speedsters that includes recent 1:48 performer Johny Rock from post four and Adios champion Sunfire Blue Chip from post three.

“Sunfire Blue Chip is a very talented horse,” said Collins. However, the Jimmy Takter-trained colt had trouble earlier this season getting around the half-mile track at Yonkers for the Rooney. Whether the recent third-place finisher in the Simcoe at Mohawk is in top shape remains in question.

The field also includes Odds On Equuleus, making his first pari-mutuel start for trainer Tony Alagna. One of last year’s brightest stars, Odds On Equuleus has gone winless this year, but last Thursday won a qualifier at the Red Mile in 1:50 1/5, perhaps indicating that he’s ready to join the top rung of the three-year-old division. Tim Tetrick will guide him from post five.

The top three finishers in each of the three divisions of the first heat return for the $265,224 Jug second heat, carded as race 18 on the afternoon program. Should none of the first heat winners capture the second heat, a third heat (race 20) would be required, grouping the four heat winners in a $110,510 winner take all event.

[DRF HARNESS: Sign Up for the FREE DRF Harness Newsletter Today!]

Vegas Vacation (post 5) is the favorite in the 13th race and first division of the first heat of the Jug. Brian Sears will guide him for trainer Casie Coleman, who is hoping for back-to-back Jug scores after capturing last year’s classic with Michaels Power.

Beach Memories, a 1:54 winner at Delaware in a division of the Standardbred as a two-year-old, landed post five and will be a main contender in the second Jug trial, race 14 on the program.

First post at Delaware on Thursday is 11:00 am.