Posts Tagged ‘Mr Feelgood’

Only a week to go to the Little Brown Jug!

Six years ago I was on track to see Mr Feelgood win the Jug. This post and the next one tomorrow are a ‘tip o’ the hat’ to that wonderful event and to a wonderful horse – who is now tackling his next challenge, to become a successful sire.

Bee Pears alongside the Little Brown Jug

Bee Pears alongside the Little Brown Jug

2006, a fine but cool late September day in Delaware, Ohio. The wind on track made me buy a souvenir polar fleece jacket to keep warm.

We found our online-purchased “seats” in the grandstand, indicated by numbers painted along the narrow benches at spacings which were optimistically close. Luckily our ‘neighbours’ were Don and his friend, great guys who,  like many at the Little Brown Jug,  booked the same seats each year, a tradition. Don was informative and friendly, and kept an eye on our gear and seats while we went exploring.

Kym Kearns with our friendly Little Brown Jug neighbour Don.

The Little Brown Jug is two days of experience I’ll never forget – and definitely recommend. It is a huge meeting – about 50,000 people descend on the small town of Delaware for the Grand Circuit Racing County Fair that features the Jugette (for 3yo fillies) on the first day and the Jug (for 3yo colts) on the second day, some other good stakes races and a lot of local fields.

The atmosphere is like a Motukarara Gold Nuggets day but 50 times bigger. It’s laid back, but electric. It’s country, not town. It’s casual, but incredibly well organised. Go to their website and you can tell that it retains an identity which avoids the sophisticated PR promotion you might expect for such a big occasion.

It is a great tradition – and a lot of fun.

You can walk all around the half mile oval – on the side opposite the grandstand, the back stretch, is an area where people have their own deck chairs – you get a great view of the horses coming out onto the track, and it is a popular social area. Hot dogs, burgers and goulash-type meals dominate the food hall area under the main grandstand and dotted around the course. Many of those attending stay in motorhomes parked in the county fair grounds – which would have been a better and cheaper option in hindsight than the Delaware hotel we booked in advance.

I wasn’t a close follower of North American racing, so many of the Jug elimination heat participants in 2006 were just names to me – but of course they are more familiar now – Jereme’s Jet, Armbro Deuce, Total Truth (all sires now),  and of course the eventual winner of the Jug, Mr Feelgood. Also racing on Jug and Jugette days – and winning – were Ponder, a very classy performance in 1.49, and the very good Bettor’s Delight 2yo filly Isabella Blue Chip (a US$40,000 yearling purchase who went on to earn just under US$800,000) and Bettor’s Delight Jugette winner Eternity’s Delight, who was owned by well known American breeders/owners Jules and Arlene Siegel – and it is worth quoting Jules Siegel on the Little Brown Jug as an event:

The Jug is a throwback to what racing was and should be today. The Delaware County Fair is the most exciting event in (harness) racing. My wife and I bring guests to Delaware each year who are not even involved in harness racing and they enjoy the racing as much as we do. Everything about Delaware is a credit to the sport.

Little Brown Jug 2006

Big crowds, big excitement at the Little Brown Jug
Photo: Bee Pears

The county fair is in Ohio, which is a backwater in terms of top level racing and breeding, apart from this event. It is, however, a state where many bread and butter horses are bred and raced, with its own yearling sales (which we went to, and noticed the quality of the Pegasus Spur yearlings), and a number of sires standing locally or nearby who are not in the top league but popular and affordable for the state breeders. So the large proportion of horses competing over the 2-day county fair meeting have breeding much less familiar to us than that of the horses in the Jug, Jugette and other $50,000 plus stakes race fields on the day. These local sires in 2006 included Nobleland Sam, Stand Forever and Precious Bunny for pacers, and Master Lavec and Ilooklikemymom for the trotters.

In New Zealand we place high value on the Little Brown Jug as a true test of qualities we like to see in a sire – toughness, speed and heart (they race twice within the same afternoon, with three elimination heats producing the nine horses for the final, all over a mile of course and the tight half mile Delaware track). Some winners we admire in Australia and New Zealand include Armbro Operative, Fake Left, Life Sign and Bettor’s Delight, while more recent Jug winners in our siring ranks include P-Forty Seven, Shadow Play, Well Said, Rock N Roll Heaven and now Mr Feelgood.

On Jug day in 2006 we watched Mr Feelgood take out his elimination and then the final in grand style. In the final he was sitting behind Armbro Deuce on a fast pace that stretched the rest of the field, then came off the back of the leader as he started to tire, and blasted to the front with only Cactus Creek looking vaguely dangerous.

I have to confess my money was on 14.2h Doonbeg from Toronto, a very small horse with incredible ability who came last in the final, but has gone on to a fascinating career in Britain (in 2010 breaking the world record for the fastest mile on a track LESS than half a mile).

Of interest, Jereme’s Jet never made it to the final, having been burned in a 25.4 first quarter speed duel with Armbro Deuce in his elimination heat (the third heat) , so that makes Armbro Deuce’s performance for second in his elim and third in the final even more remarkable given the short timespan between those two races.

Mr Feelgood in the winners circle 2006

Mr Feelgood in the winners circle, 2006 Little Brown Jug
Photo: Bee Pears

Mr Feelgood is a class act – he was on that day, and he has continued to be so in achieving outstanding results in two different hemispheres – with two different styles of racing over different distances.

The qualities that allowed him to win the Jug are the same qualities that enabled him to win the InterDominion Final and the Hunter Cup in Australia as a 6yo, and heats of the Interdominion at 8 and 9 years old. (See summary of his racing record)

The training feat by Jim Takter (USA), Anthony Butt (NZ) and then John McCarthy (Australia) played a large part in maintaining the will to win and soundness of Mr Feelgood over such a long and varied racing career.

In the next blog, I look at Mr Feelgood’s attributes as a sire – and share some frank observations and stories from John Coffey of Alabar Australia, where Mr Feelgood is standing.

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