Mark MacDonald knows how it feels to win the Little Brown Jug. He won it six years ago with the appropriately named Mr. Feelgood.
The 33-year-old Canadian native is hoping to feel good again after Thursday's $487,550 Little Brown Jug for 3-year-old pacers at the Delaware County Fairgrounds in central Ohio, this time with Bolt The Duer.
Fourteen horses entered the Little Brown Jug, which is the second jewel in the Pacing Triple Crown and is contested in heats. The field was divided into two seven-horse opening-round heats, with Bolt The Duer the 5-2 second choice on the morning line behind Michael's Power, at 2-1, in the first division. A Rocknroll Dance is the 2-1 morning line favorite from post seven in the second.
The top four horses in each of the opening divisions will advance to the $234,024 second heat. If a first-heat winner scores in the second heat, he will be the Jug winner. Otherwise, the three heat-winners will return for a $97,510 race-off. The last time a race-off occurred was in 2000, when Astreos defeated Gallo Blue Chip, George Scooter and Profita.
"It's a thrill anytime you win a big race, but the Jug is very prestigious,” MacDonald said of the race, which annually attracts 50,000 people to the Delaware County Fair. "It's a spectacle. There are so many fans and it's great to race in front of that many people. It's an exciting day, all around. It's a horserace that brings people in from all over North America. It's crazy to race in front of them and to have a contender is really nice. It's very cool.”
Bolt The Duer, trained by Pete Foley, has won six of 11 races and earned $583,343 this year for owners John Como Sr. and John Como Jr.'s All Star Racing. He has won four consecutive starts, beginning with his victory in the $500,000 Delvin Miller Adios final in a world-record time of 1:47.4 at The Meadows in western Pennsylvania.
He comes into the Jug off a Kentucky Sires Stakes-record win of 1:48.2 in the $250,000 championship on Sept. 9 at Lexington's Red Mile.
"He's been good all year, but I think he's gotten a tick better,” MacDonald said. "He's really good right now. We got pretty good trips with him, but he's a good horse. He makes his own luck, too, because he's very handy. There's no two ways about it, he's a very good horse.
"He's fresh too. He doesn't have a lot of tough races in him; we've kind of managed him that way and trip him out as much as we could. I think it's starting to pay off now as some of them are starting to get tired and he's starting to accelerate a little bit. I think he's starting to come into his own. I think he's starting to get a little braver and confident as we go along here.”
For his career, Bolt The Duer (Ponder-Wonderbolt) has won 12 of 19 races and earned $797,401.The horse is named after Carter Duer, the proprietor of Peninsula Farm, which produced the colt.
As for MacDonald, in addition to winning the Little Brown Jug at Delaware in 2006, he won the 2010 Jugette for 3-year-old filly pacers with Western Silk.
"I've had a lot of success in Delaware and a lot of fond memories,” MacDonald said. "And experience is something you can't buy; you've got to earn it. I've raced in a lot of big races now and going back into them it's nice to have that experience. I was always kind of the young guy that didn't have it and was lucky to get into the races and now it's come full circle where I've been in all the big ones and have the experience. It's nice.”
At the end of Thursday, it might even feel good. (HRC)