Trainer John Williamson is optimistic about his chances with his very first Little Brown Jug starter, Urbanite Hanover, who will race from post seven with Ron Pierce driving at odds of 12-1 in the third $58,939 Little Brown Jug elimination heat on Thursday.
The colt, who has $96,674 in lifetime earnings to go with a 1:53 career-best time, is coming off a fourth-place finish in his division of the Simcoe Stakes, won by Vegas Vacation, on Sept. 7 at Mohawk Racetrack. Otherwise, he has raced primarily in overnight events this year, with two wins in 13 starts.
"He raced very well in the Simcoe, but I've never lost confidence in this horse. He's one of the best gaited horses, and just a fast, fast, little horse,” said Williamson.
"If he gets out and gets on top, it could be good, but I'd rather see him get pulled up into it. He's got a heart on his forehead; he's just a real nice little horse, smart and easy to get along with. He's well gaited so he should be able to get around here just fine.”
Williamson says Urbanite Hanover is still a bit wary of the activity at the Delaware County Fairgrounds.
"I took him for a walk a little while ago and he's still a little nervous,” he said. "He didn't want to settle down on his walk. He's wondering what's going on. I trained him this morning and he did good. He can see a lot with the bridle he has on.”
The son of Western Ideal-Up Front Sassy represents 25 percent of Williamson's four-horse stable. He co-owns the Jug starter with Daniel Haist of Ridgeville, Ontario. Williamson is a native of Caledonia, Ontario, but now lives in Waterdown.
He bought Urbanite Hanover at the Standardbred Horse Sale for $11,000, but was prepared to go much more.
"He was a gorgeous individual and he went for about $20,000 or $30,000 less than I thought he was going to go for,” he said. "We couldn't figure why. Still can't.”
At age 2, the colt was plagued with issues getting enough oxygen and had no wins in 10 starts. "He had a breathing problem, nothing that would shut him down, but really kind of immature. But he's outgrown that,” Williamson said.
Urbanite Hanover rebounded late last year to put in a valiant effort in the Breeders Crown at 100-1 odds against the top 2-year-old of the year, Captaintreacherous.
"If you look at the Breeders Crown, he was on top (after fractions of :26.3 and :55.2) and then (Captaintreacherous) re-moved, but I was on top at the half in :55 on a dirty night and we just got beat up,” Williamson said. "I finished sixth and he finished third.”
His luck in Kentucky was no better last year. "This colt would have won in Lexington, I think, but he broke a front hopple hanger,” Williamson said. He finished second to Apprentice Hanover in a division of the International Stallion Stakes, timed in 1:50.4. "He's been a tough luck little horse, if you look at his lines, he's always there.”
A bout of sickness early this year also set him back a bit. "I brought him home (from wintering at Spring Garden Ranch in Florida) and he won his first start and then he got sick on me,” Williamson said. "I don't know what it was, it wasn't really respiratory, but he shut down. John Campbell drove him (in a Somebeachsomewhere division) and he said, ‘Something is stringently wrong with this horse. I don't know what is.' I backed off on him twice but I never did figure it out.” (Harness Racing Communications)