It's never too early to pick your Little Brown Jug winner. Although harness racing's Triple Crown Classic won't be raced until September 24, now is the time to begin separating the contenders from the pretenders.
The "Road to the Little Brown Jug" has already begun for many colts and geldings who did not start, or were raced lightly last season. For example, River Shark, who made only five starts in 2008, recently captured the $67,000 Robert Suslow in 1:50.4 at The Meadowlands. He now has three wins and three seconds in seven starts this season.
River Shark won a division of the Reynolds Memorial at Pocono Downs last season. Trainer and co-owner Dave Sabatelli, who also trained River Shark's sire, says "I think the greatest quality about him is his grit. Plans are for him to have a week off and then we'll go to the Berry's Creek. He's got a pretty heavy stakes schedule."
A total of 166 colts and geldings are eligible to the $650,000-est. Little Brown Jug which will be contested for the 64th time at the Delaware, OH County Fair.
Three North American publications, Hoof beats, The Horseman And Fair World and Trot, have previewed the top 2009 pacing contenders. We offer these lists to help you pick your Jug winner.
Stan Bergstein, in his 45th annual Experimental Championship ratings which appeared in the February issue of Hoof Beats, calls it a "crap shoot" this year. "It is a wide-open, rip-roaring race. The 2009 colt crop has impressive depth, and the transition from 2-to 3-year-old form will be an interesting development to watch."
Bergstein rates Canadian juvenile champion Nebupanezzar slightly ahead of Breeders Crown champion; ; Dan Patch winner ; and Dial Or Nodial.
Gordon Waterstone enlisted five panelists to rate this year's pacing colt class for the April 8th edition of The Horseman And Fair World magazine. Trainers Blair Burgess, Carl Jamieson, Ed Lohmeyer, Kelly O'Donnell and George Teague, Jr. rated, runner-up in both the Governor's Cup and Breeders Crown Final, slightly over , and Nebupanezzar. Other colts listed in the eight trainers' top three were Dial Or Nodial, Sheer Desire and Carnivore.
Trot magazine, published monthly by Standardbred Canada, presented it's annual theoretical odds for all eligibles to Canada's richest race, the North America Cup, scheduled for Mohawk Racetrack, June 27. The top 10 are also eligible to the Little Brown Jug.
In order,(6-1), (7-1), (10-1), Dial Or Nodial (11-1), Sheer Desire (12-1), Nebupanezzar (18-1), Captain Sir (20-1), Carnivore (22-1), Annieswesterncard (24-1) and Schoolkids (25-1).
The $274,000-est. James Dancer on April 25th at Freehold and $25,000 eliminations for the Berry's Creek on May 2nd at The Meadowlands are next up on the Road to the Jug.