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SC Rewind: The One & Only Fan Hanover

Published: September 16, 2017 9:18 am ET

Last Comment: September 20, 2017 12:01 pm ET | 2 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

In this week's Rewind story Robert Smith remembers the great pacing filly Fan Hanover and reviews parts of her phenomenal three-year racing career. As this year's Little Brown Jug week approaches this great daughter of Albatross is still the only filly to ever capture the Jug which is now in its 72nd year of competition.

Fan Hanover appears on the front cover of the official LBJ program to commemorate her famous victory in 1981 as the only filly to ever win the race in its very long history.

​The Little Brown Jug seldom has a filly as an entrant; ever since 1971 they opt for the Jugette, a special companion race for the fairer sex. There have been exceptions where fillies are entered but in the long history of the famous race just one winner has been a mare. In 1981 two very astute people -- one the owner, the other the driver and both named Glen -- decided to go against the odds by starting the great Fan Hanover in with the boys. Some say it was the wildest Jug of all.

A few hours into that afternoon at Delaware in late September of 1981, owner Dr. Glen Brown and driver Glen Garnsey were in the winner's circle accepting the coveted Little Brown Jug. While most experts have felt that pacing fillies are seldom capable of competing with their male counterparts, this filly and her connections proved otherwise. After over 70 of the annual classics have been held, she is still the one and only filly to claim a Jug.

Fan Hanover appears with friends and family. From left is Chas. Armstrong, Pat, Mrs. Glen Brown, Dr. Glen Brown owner, Odell Short groom, Fan Hanover and driver Glen Garnsey

I have recently had the very rewarding experience of conversing with Dr. Glen Brown, the man who owned Fan Hanover throughout her entire lifetime. His recollections of owning this very fine mare have been interesting to hear and I thank him for sharing a number of them with me and ultimately being able to pass these 'treasures' along to the Rewind reading audience.

The story of Fan Hanover as told by Dr. Brown started back in the late fall of 1979. Dr. Glen boarded a plane in Toronto headed for Harrisburg, Pa. He was accompanied by Charles Armstrong, head of the famed Armbro operation and thus Glen's boss, and a then young 39-year-old horseman named Wm. Wellwood happened to be on the same flight. The main aim of the Armstrong contingent was to purchase one or more Albatross fillies. They believed they would be good investments as possible racing stock and eventual broodmares.

On the first day at Harrisburg they looked at every Albatross filly in the catalogue and in the discussions Bill reported to his colleagues that he had been to Hanover and recalled when Fan Hanover had been shown and remarked "this filly can pace like hell" to the lead pony. Apparently little else was said about the filly. After two days Chas. Armstrong reckoned that "we've spent more than our budget" so he and Bill got a flight out that night. Dr. Brown decided to stay another day or two.

That evening he and Glen Garnsey, a top horseman of the day and the eventual trainer and driver of Fan Hanover, were seated at the sale when their future star was led into the ring. When asked if he had seen her before Garnsey replied that he had not. Almost on a whim, Dr. Brown made a couple of bids and soon had her at the reasonable price of $20,000. Since neither of them had seen much of her they decided to go out to the stable area and have a look. Brown recalled he said to Garnsey "I'll have to decide whether to train her or send her home to be a broodmare." Garnsey looked her over and said "you better send her to Florida." Thus began one of the great stories of the modern era of our sport.

Fan Hanover showed a lot of promise right from day one. Glen Garnsey broke her and trained at Pompano the first two winters and then at the South Florida Training Centre the third winter. She was virtually flawless in every way. She was perfectly mannered, well-gaited and as her record would prove she had tons of speed. She did have one slight fault and that was her hatred for tractors. Dr. Brown recalls that she would try to head to the infield if she saw one, and it was a habit she never overcame.

At two she began her racing career by winning a "baby" race at Brandywine and then shipped to Blue Bonnets where Bill Wellwood drove her to victory in the first leg of The Canadian Series. A week later she repeated at Quebec City with Garnsey in the bike. At this point Dr. Brown recalls becoming a real believer as she shipped all the way from Quebec City to Windsor where she scored in 1:59 and change. "Not many two-year-old fillies went better than 2:00 in those days, and it was only June!"

At about this time another rather important facet of the young filly's career received another major "boost". As she made the trip to Windsor, trainer Glen Garnsey advised Dr. Brown that he was sending up a new caretaker for Fan. It was Odell Short, a Kentucky boy that had looked after nearly all the really great horses in the stable for a number of years. Dr. Brown related "sending Odell told me what Garnsey must have thought of Fan." He remained with her for the rest of her racing days except for a short time when he was laid up with a broken ankle.

Jug Day Arrives

Fan Hanover had been paid up in the Jugette and that allowed her to go into The Jug by making up the payment differential. Leading up to the Jug she had made an uncharacteritic break at Liberty Bell which became a cause for concern. However in her next start, just a week before The Jug, she set yet another world record on a five-eighths mile track at The Meadows. The plans were back on track.

​Fan Hanover in rein to Glen Garnsey shows the flawless gait that was one of her great attributes

When the days of the draws for both big races grew near Dr. Brown was at The Canadian Classic yearling sale at Woodbine with the Armstrong consignment. He received a call from Glen Garnsey asking for his latest advice about which race to enter. "What is your decision?" was the question. With little hesitation Dr. Brown said "I'll never get another chance; I'm going for the Jug" to which Garnsey replied "I was hoping you would say that!"

Dr. Brown recalls that virtually every person he respected in the business when asked advised him to go in the Jugette. "No one said the Jug; it was not for the girls." As history has now proven the decision while a bold one proved to be the right one. This was the first time in fifteen years that a filly had even dared to enter the Jug.

A ticket from Little Brown Jug Day 1981

On Jug day 1981 a colt named Landslide came into the big encounter unbeaten in his career. He was unraced at two despite his price tag of $290,000 as a yearling but this day seemed to be his for the taking. In the first elimination Landslide, as the scribes of the day described, "fell quite literally from the ranks of the undefeated." Involved in a backstretch accident, he was one of three horses that did not finish as Seahawk Hanover glided to victory. In the second elimination Fan Hanover prevailed over what may have been considered the weaker division but she was still much the best. The stage was now set.

In the second heat Seahawk Hanover with the rail was made the favourite at 4-5 while Fan Hanover was rated at 2-1. In a remarkable instance of déjà vu, another backstretch accident took out half the field including Seahawk Hanover. Garnsey and Fan Hanover skirted the fracas of falling horses and tangled sulkies and paced their way into the history books as the only female winner of the Delaware classic. More than four decades later, she retains that title.

On August 23, 2011 Fan Hanover passed away at Inglewood, Ont., where she had spent most of her lifetime and lived out a well-earned retirement. She was 33 and had not delivered a foal since 2001. A multiple world champion, she recorded 45 wins in her three-year racing career. She retired as the fastest and richest pacing mare in history and her time trial of 1:50.4 was the fastest ever by a filly or a mare. Her brilliance continued as a broodmare as the dam of four in 2:00, two of them in 1:55 and one in 1:52 although it was always noted that her offspring did not come close to her fabulous career.

In every respect Fan Hanover was in a class by herself. She provided her owner with a truly once in a lifetime experience. It was unique in that this was Dr. Brown's only entrant in the Little Brown Jug despite a career in the sport that now dates back in some format for probably 70 years. It is one great story.

Thanks for the memories.

Shown below are a few action shots from Fan Hanover's Little Brown Jug victory. All photos courtesy of U.S.T.A.

Fan Hanover leads the pack down the Delaware home stretch


​Fan Hanover heads for victory in the LBJ


Fan Hanover in her distinctive blue-trimmed harness and shadow roll head for victory lane on September 24, 1981 ​as she becomes the only mare to ever win the Little Brown Jug.

September 20, 2017 - 12:01 pmThe answer to this week's Who

The answer to this week's Who Is It ? is Dr. Glen Brown shown administering medicine to a youngster at the Armstrong headquarters in Brampton which was then known as ABC Farms . This photo was displayed in early 1965 , thus some 52 + years ago .

September 16, 2017 - 11:22 amIs it John Campbell?

jim morgan SAID...

Is it John Campbell?

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