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SC Rewind: Jug Day 1972


Published: September 18, 2010 10:33 am ET

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In this week's Rewind, Robert Smith recalls Little Brown Jug Day from 1972 and the starring role that a couple of Canadian entries played that September afternoon.

Ever since the very first Little Brown Jug was held in 1946, the goal of just about everyone who ever owned a pacing horse has been to win this now 65-year-old Classic. Many have tried, few have succeeded; kind of like a similar biblical phrase.

On September 21, 1972 this dream came true for a former dairy farmer turned horseman named John Hayes from Columbus, ON. He joined a rather elite group who have been fortunate enough to sip (well almost) from the coveted Little Brown Jug. The reference to 'almost' will be explained later. His trip down victory lane along with Montreal based partners Bob and Conrad Shapiro known as The Beejay Stable, became a reality thanks to a once in a lifetime horse named Strike Out.

Hayes had worked his way up the ladder, working hard and enduring much of what the sport had to offer in those "leaner" days. He most often did his own training and driving, first on the Montreal circuit and kept "grinding" along, racing a few young horses and some claimers to make ends meet. John once told me that he may have been about the first to ever claim a horse. As time went on he and his connections escalated their fortunes by progressively purchasing better stock. Hayes often told the story that as he became more interested in harness racing than cattle farming, he began a little "plan" that helped his cause. Unknown to his banker, each year he was purchasing fewer heifers and more horses from the dairy account. From his first horse, a venerable old trotter named Dannie Rocket that he and Theo Turcotte campaigned in the 1950's, a lot of progress had been made. Hayes at this time was 55 and it seemed "the time had come."

Strike Out was a foal of 1969, sired by the immortal Bret Hanover and out of the mare Golden Miss, a daughter of the very first Jug winner Ensign Hanover. He was sold at auction as a yearling at the Harrisburg Sale. Hayes and his connections had their eye on the handsome chestnut colt and were expecting to have to pay a fairly hefty price tag. Much to their surprise and satisfaction, when the bidding for Strike Out started the crowd was still buzzing over the previous sale of a high priced filly. To make a short story of it, Strike Out was purchased for the unbelievably low bid of $15,000, which of course turned out to be quite a bargain if ever there was one.

The lead up to Jug Day for Strike Out was a "dream season" by any standards one could apply. When you think of a horse "peaking" at the right time this was an example for the ages. Driven as he was through most of the season by Keith Waples, Strike Out was "primed and ready" when race day arrived. He had just won the Prix d'Ete on August 27 and had won 14 of his 19 starts leading up to this day. While two-year-olds do not always repeat good seasons, Strike Out did.

This year's Jug had no eliminations, just a two-heat affair with 12 starters in the first. Co- owner Hayes had a rather unique seat to watch his stable star that day and it was not in the paddock, the grandstand or up in the press box. He was driving stablemate Alley Fighter, a horse that frequently raced as an entry with Strike Out. The pair were certainly a factor in the opening heat, helping to set the early pace. While shut out in the first heat, he finished a game fifth and picked up $2,360 in the second, individually timed in 1:58.1.

Foremost in the mind of the Hayes' connections that day was a local horse named Jay Time handled by Ohioan Gene Riegle. Luckily, Strike Out had drawn Post 1, which gave Waples hope of quickly reaching the front end. As anticipated, the rush for the lead between Strike Out and Jay Time led to an opening quarter of :27-seconds, the fastest ever in the race's 27 year history. It was soon evident, however, that Jay Time would not be a factor as he quickly faded and eventually finished a distanced 12th and last. He was scratched from the second heat as it was disclosed that he was running a fever in excess of 105 degrees. This unfortunate turn of events for the Ohio speedster provided much relief to the backers of Strike Out.

In the second heat, Strike Out left from the pole position and led every step of the way. The betting public sent the entry away at odds of 7 to 10. Fractional times of :28.0, :57.0, 1:27.4 and a world record mile clocking of 1:56.3 had the crowd of 45,000 abuzz. The closest anyone could get was 1-1/4 lengths as Fast Clip and Bruce Nickells grabbed the place spot. Never one to over estimate his chances, driver Waples said, "I might have gone a fifth of a second faster..." He also said, "I wasn't worried about records but naturally I'm glad he's got it."

In the winner's circle, John Hayes was joined by his partners the Shapiro Bros. and was presented with a little brown jug, symbolic of the victory. Hayes, a well known abstainer, could not escape a short but poignant quip from Waples, who said, "There is no use filling it with anything; he wouldn't know how to drink out of it." Surely at some point in time though "The Senator" must have cracked out a celebratory carafe of his favourite, 7 Up!

In 1998 both John Hayes and Strike Out passed away. The horse was 29 and preceded his 79-year-old owner by just five months. Hayes had stated in 1972 in a famous quote that "I would rather win the Little Brown Jug than go to heaven..." We know with certainty that he won the Jug on that September afternoon, which has now quickly become 38 years ago.


  • 45,000 fans in attendance at the 1972 Jug, which carried a purse of $104,916. Strike Out wins both heats, first in 1:58.1 and back in 1:56.3 to set a LBJ and world record for the mile in a second heat on a half miler
  • Strike Out becomes the first Canadian trained and solely owned colt to win the Jug
  • Winnings by Strike Out for the day were $52,982
  • Good Bye Columbus finishes second in the opener off at 120 to 1 odds
  • Another Canadian horse, Lynden Bye Bye, earns fifth place money of $2,360 for owner Max Webster and driver Harold McKinley
  • Track and stakes record set by Strike Out's sire Bret Hanover in 1965 is broken
  • Strike Out has now won 16 of 21 season starts and earned over $261,000 to date
  • Keith Waples wins the only Jug of his career

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