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Whirlwind Jug Victory For Courtly Choice

Published: September 20, 2018 9:37 am ET

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Little Brown Jug Day 2018 produced a true whirlwind of emotions for the Canadian-connected Courtly Choice team, as its three-year-old Art Major colt overcame a myriad of elements to claim victory in the heralded pacing classic at Ohio’s Delaware County Fair.

After a break behind the gate in the first heat, Courtly Choice and driver David Miller had to make a miraculous recovery to finish a judges’-placed second and advance to the $436,560 final heat.

Miller and Courtly Choice started from Post 4 in the final, and elim winners Dorsoduro Hanover (PP1, Matt Kakaley) and Lather Up (PP2, Montrell Teague) lined up in the advantageous inner starting slots.

Teague and Lather Up were the fastest off the switch, and led the field into the first turn and eventually down to the quarter pole in :27. Kakaley had Dorsoduro Hanover in second and Miller sat third with Courtly Choice.

In an uncharacteristic statement prior to the Jug final, Miller had proclaimed without hesitation that Courtly Choice would win the Jug. The quip seemed to hold quite a bit of weight, seeing as though it came from ‘The Buckeye’ and was delivered after a concerning miscue behind the gate.

Miller started to slightly angle Courtly Choice out from third in the second quarter, and while Teague rated Lather Up down to the half-mile pole in :54.4, Miller was tipping his charge to the outside for a first-over advance.

Courtly Choice pulled Miller past Dorsoduro Hanover in the third quarter, and the duo was within striking distance of the pacesetter as Lather Up tripped the third timer in 1:21.2.

Miller was patient with Courtly Choice while leading the overland charge. The Buckeye calmed the $60,000 yearling purchase on the outer tier and seemed to reserve the bay to a degree prior to an all-in push.

If Miller thought the sprint for home would be easy, he was dead wrong.

Closers came from everywhere and the final eighth of the mile was truly invigorating. Lather Up and Courtly Choice were giving it their all in the lane, but so were the closers that had emerged and enveloped the sparring leaders.

A total of five horses were right there within the final strides, with roughly one length separating four of them.

When the dust settled, it was Miller and Courtly Choice who had delivered yet another cardiac moment for their connections. Courtly Choice, now a winner of roughly $1 million in career purses, had captured the Jug in 1:49.4. They would be hard-pressed to do it in more of a dramatic fashion.

"In the last 20 yards, I saw that he was getting up,” Miller said during a post-race interview. “I was pushing on him pretty hard and he was still digging ... I was pretty excited when he hit the wire."

Miller also explained that he had redemption on his mind.

"I was really confident in him coming here,” Miller said. “The first heat, he raced great, but I felt horrible. The only way that I was going to make it better was if he won.

"He puts up a big fight, he's pretty game and I give him a lot of credit. I have him all over the track a lot of times and he just keeps pushing forward."

Dorsoduro Hanover got up for second, just a neck back of Courtly Choice, and Lather Up finished third, beaten just a half length. Hayden Hanover, who raced barefoot in the Jug final for driver Andy Miller, finished fourth, just three-quarters of a length short of pay dirt. The Andrew McCarthy-driven This Is The Plan finished fifth, just one and a quarter lengths back of the victor.

MacIntosh -- a 43-year-old resident of Cambridge, Ont. that campaigns regularly on the Woodbine Entertainment circuit -- revealed afterward that he had made an equipment adjustment heading into the final heat.

"We took the Murphy Blind off,” said MacIntosh, who, in jest, added, “and I told Dave to keep the lines in his hands, that's about it."

The victory was the fifth-career Jug win for Miller, who is now tied with Michel Lachance and William Haughton for the most career Jug wins in the bike.

Courtly Choice has now won 11 of 14 seasonal races and 13 of 26 overall for the Hutt Racing Stable (Paoli, PA), Mac And Heim Stables (Cambridge, Ont.), Daniel Plouffe (Bromont, Que.), and Touch Stone Farms (Guelph, Ont.).

In a word, the second of the Little Brown Jug’s $102,720 opening-heat divisions was ‘wild.’ When all was said and done, the Ron Burke-trained and Matt Kakaley-driven Dorsoduro Hanover was declared the winner after an event-filled 1:50.4 mile.

The race was placed on its head before it actually got underway, as the favoured Meadowlands Pace winner Courtly Choice, who was starting from Post 1, made a break behind the gate for driver David Miller and instantly gave the rest of the field a huge advantage.

Everyone’s game plan went out the window with the break, and that sent the Post 2 starter, Hayden Hanover (Andy Miller) to the point early. The Pacing Triple Crown-aspiring Stay Hungry looked to capitalize on the situation, as pilot Doug McNair then sent his charge first-up for the lead.

Stay Hungry cleared to the point just after the :26.2 quarter pole and led the field down to the 55-second half-mile marker, but he and McNair had company. The Matt Kakaley-driven Dorsoduro Hanover had opted to take his turn with a first-up move and sat alongside Stay Hungry through the 1:22.4 three quarter and into the stretch.

McNair and Stay Hungry literally took a pylon-skimming trip into the lane, as they did their best to fend off a persistent Dorsoduro Hanover. All the while, David Miller and Courtly Choice, who were looking to advance to the second heat after the early break, were flying home on the outside of the track after having spotted the field multiple lengths.

Stay Hungry would go on to hit the wire first in 1:50.4, with Dorsoduro Hanover second, Courtly Choice third and Hayden Hanover fourth. That order of finish did not last long, though.

Two inquiries were immediately launched into the race. The judges looked into the actions of Stay Hungry in the vicinity of the quarter pole, and into the manner in which Stay Hungry skimmed the pylons coming for home. After their deliberation, the judges ruled that Stay Hungry had interfered with Hayden Hanover while crossing over to the lead near the quarter pole. The judges ruled that Stay Hungry would be placed from first to fourth. Stay Hungry’s fourth-place finish meant that he was the last horse from the second elim to advance to the second-heat final.

After the judges’ ruling the official order of finish was 5-1-2-4. The first-over persistence of Dorsoduro Hanover ($13.40) paid off, as he had finished second but was declared the winner. Initial third-place finisher Courtly Choice, who had made an unbelievable recovery, was bumped up to become the second-place finisher. Hayden Hanover, who had finished fourth, was placed third. Stay Hungry, as mentioned, was placed fourth.

Dorsoduro Hanover ($13.40), who is a gelded son of Somebeachsomewhere, races for Burke Racing Stable LLC (Fredericktown, PA), Silva Purnel And Libby (Delray Beach, FL), Weaver Bruscemi LLC (Canonsburg, PA) and Wingfield Five LLC (Kenton, OH). He has now won eight of his 14 seasonal starts and 10 of 28 lifetime.

"He raced super, he did. He put in a big effort for sure," Kakaley said afterward.

Burke jokingly said that the race went exactly as he envisioned.

"It's pretty much how I saw it; Dave would run, Tony would knock somebody down and we'd be placed the winner," Burke said in jest.

“Honestly, you have to take them how you can get them. The horse was game; I really thought we were third and then place second, so when they put up the 5 (for second), I really thought Tony was coming down. We'll take it; if we draw the rail we'll make it a good race."

Burke went on to be rather candid about Dorsoduro Hanover’s chances heading into the second-heat final.

"We need the rail – the only shot we have is with the rail. If Montrell gets the rail I don't know what we can do to get around him. I'm hoping for the rail; we'll race him and find out."

Burke wished it and he was rewarded, as Dorsoduro Hanover drew the rail for the second-heat final. The draw results for the second-heat final appear below. Stay Hungry was subsequently scratched from the final.

1. Dorsoduro Hanover
2. Lather Up
3. This Is The Plan
4. Courtly Choice
5. Hayden Hanover
6. Babes Dig Me
7. Done Well
8. Stay Hungry (SCRATCHED)

Prior to the Jug final, Miller was asked about Courtly Choice's break in stride. "He was very revved up, that's usually not his characteristic," Miller said. "I got him into the gate just a little too quick. Usually I'm chasing him to keep up with the gate. He just kind of got balled up in there, bent around to the outside there, and rolled off. He made a huge recovery. I'm happy with his race, but I'm disappointed with how it turned out."

When asked how Courtly Choice would do in the final, Miller said rather matter-of-factly, "He's gonna win."

After making a few breaks the last time he raced on a half-mile oval, Lather Up had no issues with the turns at the Delaware County Fairgrounds, going gate-to-wire to win the first elimination of the 2018 Little Brown Jug, contested for a purse of $102,720.

With the inside four horses all leaving strongly, rail horse Lather Up emerged from that first turn skirmish on top of the field and fronted his six rivals heading into the backstretch. A :27 opening quarter was followed by a :55.3 half as the first challenger emerged with first-up Done Well (Tim Tetrick).

A motionless Montrell Teague confidently guided Lather Up down the backside with Done Well unable to sustain the first-over pressure. Lather Up accelerated through a 1:22.4 third panel and kept pocket-sitting This Is The Plan at bay with a sharp :26.4 final quarter to win by 1-1/2 lengths in 1:49.3. Babes Dig Me (Brett Miller) and Done Well were non-factors in the mile but advance to the final as the third and fourth-place finishers.

Clyde Francis trains Lather Up, now boasting wins in 11 of 13 sophomore starts for Barbara & Gary Iles of Delaware. The connections of Lather Up exuded confidence in their colt heading into the second and final heat.

"Going into that first turn I was just seeing who was going to float out and who would try to beat me off the gate but came so I just backed it down. The half I just kept looking back to see where Timmy was, and coming out of the last turn he was flying," said driver Teague after the win. "I still had plenty [of horse crossing the wire] but you have to go a second heat so I just wanted to make sure he knew where to go again."

The Thursday program was packed with stakes tilts, as multiple divisions of the Buckeye Stallion Series and Ohio Breeders Championship were sprinkled throughout the card. The Miss Versatility Final, the Old Oaken Bucket, and divisions of The Standardbred were also contested throughout the afternoon. A brief recap of some of the races appears below.

The last major stakes event of the day prior to the Jug final was the $107,000 Miss Versatility final, which saw a field of eight trotting mares face the gate for Race 18.

After a picture perfect second-over trip for driver David Miller, the Jim Campbell-trained Broadway Donna ($9.80) was a convincing winner in 1:53.1.

The five-year-old Donato Hanover mare had started from Post 7 and raced in the backfield as the Dan Dube-driven Emoticon Hanover cut the opening fractions in :27 and :56.1. Miller worked Broadway Donna into second-over position in the third quarter. By the time Emoticon Hanover reached the three-quarters pole in 1:24.1, Broadway Donna was fresh and ready for her move home.

Miller pressed the button on his charge and she trotted home confidently for the impressive win. NF Happenstance (Jack Parker Jr.) and Ice Attraction (Yannick Gingras) finished second and third, respectively. The bay has now won five of her 11 seasonal starts and 22 of 43 lifetime for her breeder/owners Fashion Farms LLC (New Hope, PA).

"She (Broadway Donna) means a lot to me, I baby-raced her from her very first start," Miller said in a post-race interview. "Andy McCarthy is the only other guy to sit behind her. She's a special horse that I care a lot about."

The first major stakes tilt of the afternoon faced the gate for Race 10, as a field of six lined up for the $111,075 Old Oaken Bucket for three-year-old male trotters.

After the finish-line photo was analyzed, it was determined that the Julie Miller-trained and Andy Miller-driven Im Your Captain ($4.80), who closed in the four-wide path in the lane, got up by a scant nose to win the dash in 1:55.2.

The Trevor Henry-driven Treasured Tee had done all of the work on the front end (:28, :57.4, 1:26.1), but had been pressured throughout the race, which featured first and second-over foes for most of its duration.

Im Your Captain, a bay Muscle Hill colt that had started from Post 5, watched the action unfold from fifth. Miller got the career winner of seven of 22 races in motion in the final quarter. As horses fanned off of cover, Miller had Im Your Captain widest of all, as he raced closest to the grandstand and got up to win by the slimmest of margins

"He was loaded (with trot) the whole way," Andy said afterward. "I thought Trevor's horse would have a little more go than he did but he came up pretty empty, and I had Yannick (Gingras, aboard Hill Street) and Jimmy (Takter, aboard Maxus) outside of me, so I was kind of in a tough spot there around the last turn, but when I got him out in the middle of the racetrack in the lane he took off."

Im Your Captain, who is owned by the Andy Miller Stable Inc. (Millstone Township, NJ) and Black Horse Racing (Lebanon, NJ) has now won five of his 14 seasonal starts and has only missed the board on four occasions this year. He has now banked more than $170,000 in career purses.

Two-year-old male trotters were in the spotlight in Race 14, as a field of nine contested a $48,218 division of The Standardbred. After having taken advantage of a breaker on the lead, the Andy Miller-driven Prospect Hill ($4.20) made the front before the half and went on to post a convincing win in 1:55.1, which was just one fifth of a second from the stakes record. The Julie Miller trainee had started from Post 2 and was forwardly-placed through the 28-second opening quarter. Osterc made a bid for the lead in the second quarter and earned the point, but proceeded to break stride, which left the door open for anyone that wanted to cease the moment. Miller and Prospect Hill took the opportunity to go to the lead from third and click off the opening half in :57.3. From there, Prospect Hill went on to spin off three quarters in 1:26.1 and come home victorious in 1:55.1. Final Claim (Mike Wilder) finished second and Kates Massive third. Prospect Hill, who is owned by Story Inc. (Allentown, NJ), has now won seven of his nine career races and roughly $155,000 in purses. When asked if Prospect Hill can give ‘Team Orange Crush’ its fourth straight Hambletonian appearance in 2019, Julie answered by saying, "I certainly hope you're right...he's had a lot of ability and talent this year, I hope it carries over for the three-year-old year."

Two-year-old male pacers were back on track for Race 11, as a $66,953 division of the Ohio Breeders Championship featured a field of nine. In what was a gate-to-wire effort, the Brian Brown-trained and Ronnie Wrenn Jr.-driven Rock Candy ($3.60) posted a world record mile, as he was a dominant winner in 1:51.3. The time shaved one-fifth of a second off of the previous world record for a two-year-old gelded pacer on a half-mile track (Drew The Dragon, Northfield Park, July 2017). The fractions were cut in :28.1, :56.3 and 1:24.4. The brown son of Pet Rock has now won three of his seven starts for Country Club Acres Inc. (Findlay, OH), Joe Sbrocco (Brecksville, OH) and Richard Lombardo (Solon, OH). When asked if he thought Rock Candy was ready to step out with that type of effort, Brown said, "I didn't expect him to go 1:51.3, but I thought he'd be very good." Brown went on to add that Rock Candy “was really good last week, got trapped...he's kind of been in trouble off and on all year, he's been in the wrong spots and things have not always went his way, but he's always been coming at the end." Looking forward to 2019, Brown went on to say, "I don't think he's [a Jug-calibre horse] but (:)51 and a piece for an Ohio-bred today is pretty good."

Dislocator was a gate-to-wire winner in the second division of the Ohio Breeders Championship, contested for a purse of $66,053. Driver Chris Page guided Dislocator away from post three and to the top, settling down the pace with a :28 opening quarter. Dislocator looked unstressed on the front through a :57 half and 1:25 third panel before sealing the deal with a :29.4 final quarter to hit the wire in 1:54.4 ahead of pylon-skimming Seattle Hanover (Matt Kakaley) and pocket sitter Authentic Hanover (Tyler Smith).

Three-year-old pacing fillies took to the track for Race 13, as a $55,852 division of the Ohio Breeders Championship offered the wagering public a field of 10. Post 1 starter Baron Remy ($2.20) was all business for trainer Ron Burke and driver Chris Page, as the daughter of Yankee Cruiser made every pole (:27.2, :55.4, 1:24.3) a winning won and stopped the clock in 1:53. The brown lass has now won four of her 14 seasonal starts and seven of 21 overall for Burke Racing Stable LLC (Fredericktown, PA), Silva Purnel And Libby (Delray Beach, FL), Lawrence Karr (Randolph, NJ), Weaver Bruscemi LLC (Canonsburg, PA).

McVenus saved her best strides for last to capture the second $55,852 Ohio Breeders Championship division for three-year-old pacing fillies in Race 19. Trace Tetrick settled the sophomore near the back of the pack as Ask Me Ifi Care (Mike Micallef) fronted the field of 10 to the opening quarter in :27. Post 10 starter Believe In Waco (Aaron Merriman) advanced from the outset and finally forged to the lead after the :55 half. Believe In Waco tried to gain separation on the field, opening up through the 1:23.1 third station but Trace Tetrick had McVenus out three-wide and closing around the final turn. These two fillies waged war in deep stretch but McVenus had the most in reserve and tripped the timer in 1:52.2. Up Front Flor Ida (David Miller) was scorching through the stretch and completed the triactor.

Brian Brown trains and Bruce Trogdon's Emerald Highlands Farm owns McVenus (McArdle - Venus Killean), a half-sister to millionaires Keystone Velocity and Venus Delight.

Three-year-old male pacers were back in Ohio Breeders Championship action in Race 7, as a field of seven clashed for a $55,777 purse. The Mike Roth-trained and Dan Noble-driven Bounding Dragon ($2.60) flashed some serious speed on the engine, as he posted the fractions in :26.1, :53.4 and 1:21.3. The Dragon Again colt held on the lane, as he came home in :29.2 for the seventh win of his 13-race campaign. Owned by Alan Keith (Johnstown, OH) and Carl and Melanie Atley (Xenia, OH), Bounding Dragon has now won nine of his 21 career starts.

Ohio Breeders Championship action was front and centre in Race 5, as three-year-old pacing colts and geldings sparred over a $55,777 purse. After having moved to the lead before the :56.1 half, the Kimberly Dailey-trained and David Miller-driven Rockathon ($3.20) went to on capture the affair in 1:52. The gelded son of Pet Rock has now won seven of his 15 seasonal starts and nine of 24 overall for owners Kimberly Dailey (Mechanicsburg, OH) and Carl and Melanie Atley (Xenia, OH).

After a two-race ‘morning card’ kicked off the day’s action, an ultra-compact three-horse field went postward for a $40,418 division of The Standardbred (Race 2) for two-year-old male pacers. The Brian Brown-trained and Tim Tetrick-driven Workin Ona Mystery ($4.20) was ultra sharp during the tilt, as he closely tracked his stablemate (Air Force Hanover) from the pocket through quick fractions for a three-horse field (:27, :54.3, 1:22.2). When asked by Tetrick, Workin Ona Mystery, a son of Captaintreacherous, flashed down to the wire and stopped the clock in 1:50.3. The time was a new life’s mark for the colt, who is now three for three in his career. Workin Ona Mystery is owned by James Stambaugh (Wauseon, OH), Alan Keith (Johnstown, OH), Milton Leeman (Columbus, OH and Wingfield Brothers LLC (Kenton, OH).

(With files from the Little Brown Jug)

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