by Frank Carulli
September 25, 2018
This Little Brown Jug overflowed with dramatic storylines, but when the sun set on the Delaware County Fairgrounds in Ohio last Thursday only one 3-year old pacer could lay claim to the trophy.
Fittingly, it was Courtly Choice who emerged from a four-horse photo finish to win in the $436,560 final. He grinded first-over for more than a half mile, got past odds-on pace-setter Lather Up (Montrell Teague) in mid-stretch and beat pocket-sitter Dorsoduro Hanover (Matt Kakaley) by a neck in 1:49.4, giving Hall of Fame driver David Miller his record-tying fifth Jug victory.
“The last 20 yards I saw he was getting up and I couldn’t have been happier,” said Miller. “I was pushing on him pretty hard and he was still digging. I was pretty excited when we hit the wire.”
But the real drama unfolded about an hour earlier in the $102,720 elimination heats in which the top four finishers advanced to the final. Courtly Choice broke stride behind the starting gate but made a remarkable recovery to finish third, prompting Miller to uncharacteristically predict: “He’s going to win” in the final.
His task was made easier when Triple Crown hopeful Stay Hungry was disqualified from first to fourth for interference on the second turn, moving Dorsoduro Hanover and Stay Hungry up to the top two spots and perhaps prompting Stay Hungry’s connections to scratch from the final after he drew post 8 at the half-mile track.
The 46,126 in attendance would have witnessed another winner if Courtly Choice’s ownership group of Hutt Racing Stable, Mac And Heim Stables, Daniel Plouffe and Touch Stone Farms didn’t pay a $45,000 supplemental fee to enter Courtly Choice into the race.
“He’s deserved it, he’s earned it, and he proved today what a champ he is,” said trainer Blake MacIntosh.
‘ALEXA’ OVERPOWERING IN JUGETTE
Alexa’s Power shifted into high gear on the backstretch and proved best in the $273,700 Jugette last Wednesday at the Delaware County Fairgrounds. The 4-to-5 favorite vacated the pocket after a half mile, wore down leader Strong Opinion (Chris Page) on the final turn and held off 62-1 longshot E Dee’s Well Said (Jim Pantaleano) to win by a length in 1:51.2.
Alexa’s Power topped $500,000 in earnings for owners Jeff and Michael Snyder and gave trainer Jim Campbell his first Jugette victory.
“That’s definitely the hardest I’ve ever raced her,” said winning driver Tim Tetrick. “She’s always been a trip mare, but today she showed that she’s a Jugette winner. So that’s pretty awesome.”
Tetrick said his strategy changed when 6-5 second favorite Youraremycandygirl went off stride behind the gate. “I had a hundred different ideas going through my head,” he said. “I knew I could maybe get the 2-hole and I thought I could out-muscle them from there.”
“That’s why these guys are good -- they act on impulse,” said Campbell. “Timmy wasn’t going to go down getting locked in the two hole. If she didn’t win, he still made the right move.”