Winning the Little Brown Jug has always been at the top of trainer Casie Coleman's bucket list, so when Ontario-sired 3-year-old pacing gelding Michaels Power captured the Confederation Cup in August, she started thinking seriously about taking a third run at the storied race.
On Thursday afternoon the son of Camluck, in the hands of 23-year-old Scott Zeron, made Coleman's dream a reality with a commanding gate-to-wire second heat victory in a world record 1:50. "It was just awesome,” said Coleman, one day after raising the historic Jug trophy at the Delaware County Fair Grounds in Delaware, OH.
Michaels Power and Zeron won their first heat off a pocket trip that saw them find racing room late and get up for a head victory in 1:52.3. The pair then landed the rail for the $331,534 second heat, a stroke of luck that raised the hopes of the entire Michaels Power team.
"He had a pretty easy first heat, I was extremely happy with that,” said Coleman, who conditions Michaels Power for owner-breeder Jeffrey Snyder of New York, NY. "Then when we drew the rail for the final — you know you're getting one or two and you wouldn't think it makes that much difference but it does — we were lucky again in the draw.”
Zeron timed the gate perfectly and Michaels Power, the other heat winner Sweet Lou, and A Rocknroll Dance stormed out to one of the fastest opening fractions in the history of the Little Brown Jug, flashing by the quarter pole in :25.2.
"I wanted to be right down the road,” Zeron explained after the ultra aggressive move proved to be the key to the race. "Twenty five and two (the hot :25.2 opening quarter time) scared me, but he's a sweetheart and quite a professional.”
From there Zeron was able to steal a soft second quarter, reaching the half in :54 and leaving Michaels Power with enough in reserve to hold off the challengers when they came a-calling. Bettors Edge and Thinking Out Loud powered up on the outside heading for the 1:22 three-quarters, but when Zeron asked Michaels Power for just a little more, the gelding responded with a finishing kick that carried him home to the one and three-quarter length victory in 1:50.
"I was worried about, obviously, a first quarter in :25.2 is pretty much smoking on any size track let alone a half,” recalled Coleman. "But when he went by me the plugs were still in and Scott seemed to have a pretty firm hold on him.”
Coleman said Michaels Power seemed to come out of the race in fine fettle, eating up his dinner and heading for home on Friday morning without incident. The gelding will now enjoy a few days of rest and relaxation before Coleman and her team begin preparations for the last regular season Gold Series event at Flamboro Downs on Oct. 5 and 12. Michaels Power has been unmatched in Gold Series action to date, posting Gold Final wins at Georgian Downs, Mohawk Racetrack and Rideau Carleton Raceway.
Following the last Gold Series event Coleman and Snyder will make a decision about supplementing the gelding to the Oct. 20 Breeders Crown Eliminations at Woodbine Racetrack. With a $62,500 price tag, the decision is a weighty one, but with his Little Brown Jug, Confederation Cup and Somebeachsomewhere stakes wins the gelding has already demonstrated his ability to compete with the best in North America.
"Hopefully Michaels Power makes a statement with his accomplishment about how strong Ontario breeding is,” reflected Coleman.
To view Michaels Power's Ontario Sires Stakes starts please go to http://www.ontariosiresstakes.com/participants/display_horse.html?tattoo=1GL63
(With files from Standardbred Canada)(Ontario Sires Stakes)