by Frank Carulli
September 24, 2019
Southwind Ozzi sustained a first-over rally and won going away in the $384,000 final of the Little Brown Jug last Thursday at the Delaware County Fairgrounds in Ohio.
If the move looked familiar to the 48,000 in attendance, it was. Southwind Ozzi followed a near identical path to win in his elimination heat and move to the head of a strong 3-year-old pacing class.
Southwind Ozzi, the 2-to-5 Jug favorite, got his cue from Hall of Fame driver Brian Sears before the half-mile marker, launching a bid from fourth. He collared 7-to-2 pace setter Stag Party at the ¾-mile pole and edged clear to win by 1-3/4 lengths on a fast track in 1:50.1.
Stag Party (David Miller) tired in the stretch and dropped back abruptly when he locked wheels with Air Force Hanover (Simon Allard). That enabled pocket sitter Fast N First (Brett Miller), the other elimination winner, to get up for second and American Mercury (Tyler Buter) to run third.
"He's a great horse," said Sears. "I know I got a lot of options during the race. He roughed it out first-over in both heats and got it done convincingly."
Bill MacKenzie trains Southwind Ozzi, who improved to 9-for-11 this year and has bankrolled $736,935 for owners Alma Iafelice and Vincent Ali Jr. despite missing two months because of hernia surgery.
Tall Dark Stranger remained unbeaten as a 2-year-old and set a stakes record in winning the C$750,000 Metro Pace last Saturday at Woodbine-Mohawk Park.
He vacated the pocket on the final turn, blew past 3-to-5 favorite Capt Midnight (Andrew McCarthy) in mid-stretch and held off a furious, wide rally by Papi Rob Hanover (David Miller) through a 27-second final quarter-mile to win in 1:49.1, besting A Rocknroll Dance's 2011 stakes record by one-fifth of a second. He paid $5.40 to win.
Yannick Gingras, who drove Tall Dark Stranger for trainer Nancy Johansson and owners Crawford Farms Racing, Marvin Katz, Caviart Farms and Howard Taylor, said they have more to look forward to than his six wins to date.
"He's got some learning to do, but he's got all the tools to be a great one," Gingras told Harnesslink.