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Grant On 2018, Triple Crown Shot

Published: September 17, 2018 2:21 pm ET

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Horse owner Brad Grant admits that neither winning the Hambletonian nor competing for the Pacing Triple Crown was on his mind at the beginning of this year. All of that changed in August.

Grant watched his filly Atlanta win the Hambletonian on Aug. 4 at the Meadowlands Racetrack less than three hours after his colt Stay Hungry captured the Cane Pace, which is the first jewel in the Pacing Triple Crown. Stay Hungry added the second jewel, the Messenger Stakes, on Sept. 1 at Yonkers and will attempt to complete the sweep of the Crown events by winning Thursday’s $642,000 Little Brown Jug for three-year-old pacers at the Delaware County Fair in central Ohio.

A total of 13 horses entered the 73rd Little Brown Jug, which required the group to be divided into two eliminations that will determine the field for the same-day final. Among the horses joining Stay Hungry for the event will be North America Cup winner Lather Up, Meadowlands Pace victor Courtly Choice, and Adios winner Dorsoduro Hanover.

Courtly Choice was not staked to the Little Brown Jug, but entered with a $45,000 supplemental payment; an option offered to ineligible horses that win either the Cane Pace, Meadowlands Pace, Messenger, or North America Cup.

The draw for the eliminations was conducted Monday at the fairground’s log cabin and Stay Hungry drew Post 4 for the second of the two divisions. The top four from each elimination advance to the final, when post positions will be drawn based on finishing positions in the elims.

Stay Hungry, trained by Tony Alagna, will have regular driver Doug McNair in the sulky.

No horse has won the Pacing Triple Crown since No Pan Intended in 2003, when he became the 10th pacer to accomplish the feat. The 15-year drought is the longest in the history of the series, which began in 1956. The previous-longest gap was 14 years, from Ralph Hanover in 1983 to Western Dreamer in 1997.

The youngest driver to win a Pacing Triple Crown was George Sholty, at the age of 33, with Romeo Hanover in 1966. McNair is 28.

“It’s exciting,” said Grant, who owns Stay Hungry with the Irwin Samelman Estate. “It’s great to be in it. There is going to be some hard racing (Thursday). There are a lot of good ones in there. I’m not convinced there is one horse that’s an outstanding favourite; there are a number of horses that could step up and win. I just hope that we’re there.”

Stay Hungry, the 2017 O’Brien Award winner for best two-year-old male pacer in Canada, has won five of 11 races this year and three of his past four. For his career, the son of Somebeachsomewhere out of My Little Dragon has won 11 of 20 starts and $1.18 million. His top victory last season came in the Breeders Crown final.

In the Cane Pace, Stay Hungry rallied from ninth with a quarter-mile to go to win in a stakes-record-equalling 1:47.3. The colt finished third in the Messenger Stakes elimination, but won the final by a neck over Jimmy Freight in 1:52.1.

“There are a lot of things that have happened this year that weren’t in the back of my mind when the year got started,” Grant said. “We believed this colt was going to be the colt he is. But thinking about the Triple Crown, I hadn’t given it a thought until someone mentioned it after the Cane.

“Winning the Cane, at the three-quarter pole I didn’t think I had a chance to get a cheque,” he added. “To win that one, it was a great race. I was concerned going into the Messenger. Jimmy Freight is a hell of a colt. I was a little more surprised than maybe Tony and Doug that (Stay Hungry) got it done.

“Tony has done a great job planning his schedule for this year and making adjustments to it. It’s all worked out so far and hopefully we can keep it going. I’m just kind of on the bandwagon with everybody else at this point. You stay quiet and you hope you can get it done.”

Grant will be making his third trip to the Little Brown Jug – his previous two visits came with horses owned by his family. In 2001, Bettors Delight won the Little Brown Jug for Grant’s father, John, who was a founding partner in Flamboro Downs and a member of the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame. In 2010, the year after John’s passing, Classic Rock Nroll won an elimination and finished fifth in the final under the ownership of Grant’s mom, Kay.

“I’m looking forward to going to the Jug,” Grant said. “It’s a great event. It’s nice to be going into it with a horse that can compete and contend. From there, you just hope for the best. I just hope the colt races well.”

Grant, who followed his father into the trucking and transportation business, is among harness racing’s most successful owners, leading the Woodbine Entertainment circuit in wins since 2016 and ranking near the top of the North American purse standings. In addition to co-owning Hambletonian-winner Atlanta, Grant’s horses include another Jug starter in Babes Dig Me, Dr J Hanover, Witch Dali, and unbeaten two-year-old Captain Ahab.

“Honestly, winning the Hambo was on my bucket list, but it was on my bucket list for maybe five or six years from now,” Grant said. “[Trainer Rick Zeron] and his team did a great job to get [Atlanta] where she was and race her in the Hambletonian. That was exciting. That’s my surprise of the year. And I like surprises, believe me.

“This is a run I’m enjoying,” he added. “You just don’t want it to end.”

The fields for the $102,720 Little Brown Jug eliminations appear below. The purse for the final will be $436,560.

First elimination
1. Lather Up-Montrell Teague-Clyde Francis
2. This Is The Plan-Andrew McCarthy-Chris Ryder
3. Babes Dig Me-Yannick Gingras-Tony Alagna
4. Done Well-Tim Tetrick-Brian Brown
5. Key Advisor-Chris Page-Tony Alagna
6. Nutcracker Sweet-Jordan Stratton-Jimmy Takter
7. Wes Delight- Yannick Gingras-Chris Oakes

Second elimination
1. Courtly Choice-David Miller-Blake MacIntosh
2. Hayden Hanover-Andy Miller-Julie Miller
3. Hitman Hill-Brett Miller-Chris Oakes
4. Stay Hungry- Doug McNair-Tony Alagna
5. Dorsoduro Hanover-Matt Kakaley-Ron Burke
6. Decoy-Jimmy Takter-Jimmy Takter


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