The Little Brown Jug for three-year-old pacing colts and its filly companion race, the Jugette, are highly coveted races to win and this year Guelph, Ontario-based trainer Gregg McNair has a shot in each.
Both of his Ontario-sired horses are regulars on the Ontario Sires Stakes circuit.
His filly, Lady Shadow, is the favourite in the first of three divisions of the Jugette, worth a total of $298,100, to be raced Wednesday afternoon at the Delaware County Fair in Ohio. The daughter of Shadow Play, owned by Lindsey and Connie Rankin of Lexington, Michigan, has won five races and finished second in two others in 10 starts so far this year.
She comes into Wednesday’s race riding a two race winning streak, both in OSS Gold events. McNair’s son Doug, her regular driver, will once again be at the lines behind the winner of $454,000 so far in her career.
The other Ontario-sired filly in the Jugette is the Major In Art daughter Sectionline Aqua, who has post eight in the second elimination. She’ll have hometown support as all three of her owners are from Ohio. Sectionline Aqua finished second to Lady Shadow in her last two OSS Gold outings.
The Jugette and Little Brown Jug are both heat races. The top three fillies from each elimination on Wednesday will return for a second heat, the winner of which will be crowned Jugette champion.
Gregg McNair, the leading trainer in the OSS program so far in 2014, has yet to win either the Jug or Jugette so far in his impressive career, but he has come close. In 2011 his filly Swinging Beauty captured her first heat of the Jugette and finished third to Idyllic in the final.
In 2000 he started George Scooter in the Little Brown Jug. The Matts Scooter son was third in the first heat and came back to win the second heat but finished third in the race off to Astreos.
McNair’s 2014 Jug hopeful is the Mach Three colt Three Of Clubs. McNair co-owns the colt with Tony Lawrence of Hanover, Ontario, and harness racing legend Keith Waples of Durham, Ontario. One of the most respected harness drivers in history, and a member of Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame and the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame, Waples won the 1972 Little Brown Jug with Strike Out. The horse’s owner, the late John Hayes, famously said prior to the race: “I’d rather win the Little Brown Jug than go to heaven.”
That victory was the first time a Canadian-owned horse won the Jug and now the 91 year-old Waples has another chance to capture the famed event with Three Of Clubs on Thursday afternoon, but it will be a big undertaking given the talent of the 16 colts entered.
Three Of Clubs has drawn post three in the $103,600 first heat alongside On Golden Ponder, trained by Bob McIntosh of Windsor, Ontario who sits second to McNair in the OSS trainers’ standings. There are two colts entered in the second heat which also have Ontario trainers, Casie Coleman’s McWicked (post one) and Dave Menary’s Hes Watching (post six).
The first four finishers will advance to the $310,800 second heat. A race-off, if required, will be worth $129,500.
Other Ontario-sired performers racing at Delaware Wednesday include the Majestic Son daughter Yanks Ball Girl in the Standardbred Stakes for two-year-old trotting fillies. The second division finds OSS regular Gee OKeeffe, who has two OSS wins to her credit this year. She’s owned by trainer Chris Beaver and Wilbur Lang, both of Ohio.
Little Brown Jug day also finds one of the greatest mares to ever race in the OSS, Bee A Magician, competing. The four-year-old daughter of Kadabra, who has drawn post six in the 17th race of the day, the $121,000 Miss Versatility Final. Horse of the Year in both Canada and the US last year, Bee A Magician has earned $2.5 million to date in her career. Starting alongside in post seven is another top OSS graduate, $592,000 winner Charmed Life.