Day At The Track

Southwind Ozzi has been better than expected

01:54 AM 19 Sep 2019 NZST
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Southwind Ozzi, harness racing
Southwind Ozzi and driver Brian Sears
Chris Gooden photo

Anthony Iafelice and Vincent Ali Sr., who passed away in 2017 and 2013, respectively, never owned a harness racing horse like Southwind Ozzi. But family members feel their presence as they enjoy the ride with one of the favorites in Thursday's $640,000 Little Brown Jug.

Iafelice and Ali were friends, sharing a love of horses and harness racing. Iafelice's grandson, Bill MacKenzie, began training horses for Ali a number of years ago and now MacKenzie conditions Southwind Ozzi for his grandmother, Alma Iafelice, and Vincent Ali Jr.

Southwind Ozzi enters the 74th Little Brown Jug, presented by the Ohio Harness Horsemen's Association at the Delaware County Fairgrounds in central Ohio, with seven wins in nine starts this year and $480,935 in purses. His victories include the Adios and Pennsylvania Sire Stakes final. He is the 8-5 morning-line favorite in the first of two $128,000 Little Brown Jug eliminations, with Brian Sears in the sulky.

"This is a first for everybody," MacKenzie said. "My grandparents owned a couple nice horses, but nothing like him. It's great. This is what anybody that buys a yearling or buys a horse is aiming to do. This is what we do it for. Unfortunately, (my grandfather) is not here to see this, but I'm sure he's looking down."

Said Ali Jr., "My dad never had nothing like this either. I wish he was alive to see it. He'd be going crazy right now. That was his dream, to have a horse like this. He's the reason I do this, he got me involved."

The Little Brown Jug is the third jewel in the Triple Crown for 3-year-old pacers, following the Cane Pace and Messenger Stakes. Captain Crunch won the Cane and was not entered in the Jug. Messenger winner American Mercury, one of three Jug entrants from the stable of trainer Chris Oakes, is the 5-2 favorite in the second Jug elim. The top-four finishers from each elimination return later in the day for the $384,000 final.

Southwind Ozzi, a son of Somebeachsomewhere out of Southwind Solara, was purchased as a yearling for $85,000 at the 2017 Lexington Selected Sale. He was the only horse MacKenzie bought that year for his grandmother and Ali Jr.

As a 2-year-old, Southwind Ozzi won once and finished second on four occasions. He was the favorite in the Kindergarten Classic Series championship in November but was derailed by sickness and finished 10th. He began this season with three wins and a second-place finish before being sidelined for nearly two months because of emergency hernia surgery. He returned in July and captured the Adios.

"He missed six weeks, but you know what, in hindsight maybe that's helped him," Ali Jr. said. "Maybe it's kept him fresh in a sense. He's racing real good now."

Ali Jr. hoped Southwind Ozzi would have a good season, particularly in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes, but tried to temper his expectations beyond that.

"My expectations weren't going to the Jug, that's for sure," said Ali Jr., who is a contractor in New York City. "Who would have ever thunk? It's not too often you get a horse like him. It's never been for me, so it's a lot of fun. It's a good time.

"This has exceeded my expectations by far."

Southwind Ozzi will start from post four in his Jug elimination. The division also includes Hempt Memorial winner Shake That House, who is the 2-1 second choice.

"I just do what I have to do, and I leave the rest up to Brian," MacKenzie said, referring to driver Sears, who won the Little Brown Jug in 2013 with Vegas Vacation. "That's what I do with any race. I don't tell him what to do."

Following the Jug, Southwind Ozzi is staked to the Simpson Memorial at Harrah's Philadelphia on Sept. 29. He is not eligible to the Tattersalls Pace or Breeders Crown in October but could be supplemented to those events. But those are decisions for another day.

"We're just going week to week," MacKenzie said. "Those are all options that we'll keep the door open on, but we don't want to get too far ahead of ourselves. He'll tell us where he's going. That's where we're at."

Following are the fields for Thursday's Little Brown Jug eliminations. The first elim is race 15 on the afternoon's card, with an approximate post time of 3:27 p.m. (EDT). The second is race 16, with an approximate post of 3:45 p.m. The final is race 20.

First Elimination
PP-Horse-Driver-Trainer-ML
1-Caviart Rockland-Dexter Dunn-Nancy Johansson-12/1
2-De Los Cielos Deo-Yannick Gingras-Ron Burke-6/1
3-Shake That House-Tim Tetrick-Chris Oakes-2/1
4-Southwind Ozzi-Brian Sears-Bill MacKenzie-8/5
5-Air Force Hanover-Simon Allard-Rene Allard-8/1
6-U S Captain-Jason Bartlett-Tony Alagna-12/1
7-Stag Party-David Miller-Casie Coleman-15/1

Second Elimination
PP-Horse-Driver-Trainer-ML
1-Semi Tough-Matt Kakaley-Ron Burke-9/2
2-Lyons Johnnyjnr-Tim Tetrick-Jim King Jr.-9/2
3-Quatrain Blue Chip-Aaron Merriman-Chris Oakes-6/1
4-Artie's Ideal-Marcus Miller-Erv Miller-7/2
5-Fast N First-Brett Miller-Blake MacIntosh-12/1
6-Spectrum-Andy Miller-Nick Surick-25/1
7-American Mercury-Tyler Buter-Chris Oakes-5/2
8-Escapetothebeach-Joe Bongiorno-Tony Alagna-10/1

by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA

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