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Harness Racing's most exciting race, the 75th renewal of the pacing classic "the Little Brown Jug" will take place on Thursday, September 24th in Delaware, Ohio over the most famous half mile track in the world at the Delaware County Fairgrounds.
Racing kicks off on Sunday, September 20 and concludes after five days of the best racing in North America with the Little Brown Jug on Thursday, September 24.
In accordance with Governor Mike DeWine's latest directive, the Delaware (OH) Grand Circuit harness racing meet, including the 75th Little Brown Jug (September 24), will be conducted without spectators. The Delaware County Fair will conduct only a Junior Fair this year.
"It is a disappointing day for us. We have been working diligently with the Delaware County Health Department and we felt we could put on a safe event on a smaller scale," said Tom Wright, director of racing and president of the Delaware County Agricultural Society Board. "We respect the directive and will do our part to make sure we have a safe event for all."
The Little Brown Jug typically draws upwards of 40,000 spectators from across North America. Fans will be able to watch and wager on the 2020 Grand Circuit Meet (September 20 - 24) and the Little Brown Jug through its simulcast network. The harness racing will be conducted in accordance with the protocols of the "Safe Return to Racing" as established by the Ohio State Racing Commission.
The Delaware County Fair will hold a virtual, online sale for the 2020 Junior Fair. The Junior Fair Sale Committee is still finalizing details and will announce more information as it becomes available.
Further information regarding previously purchased tickets will be mailed in the near future. Supporters of the Little Brown Jug and the Delaware County Fair are urged to visit LittleBrownJug.com and DelawareCountyFair.com for the latest news.
The Little Brown Jug, the premier pacing classic for 3-year-olds, provides a fascinating chapter in the more-than-a-century-old history of harness racing and the standardbred sport.
The Little Brown Jug, enriched by the tradition of the famed Grand Circuit and the picturesque backdrop of the Delaware Ohio County Fairgrounds, steadily maintains the flavor of the sport and competition from the days of its origin.
The founding of the Jug, which actually set its roots more than 65 years ago, is as unique as it is interesting. It began in 1937 when the Delaware County Agricultural Society's members, at their annual meeting, voted to move the County Fair, held since its inception at Powell, to Delaware on a tract of land at the northern edge of the city. Two years later a half-mile track was built and provided the stage for harness racing. R.K. McNamara, a local contractor, designed and built the lightning fast track.
Enter attorney Joe Neville, whose family had been identified with the standardbred horse racing sport for many years, and his friend, Henry C. "Hank" Thomson, sports editor of The Delaware Gazette. Neville, who had campaigned horses on the Grand Circuit and was familiar with its officers and stewards, was successful in obtaining Grand Circuit dates for the new Delaware track. Concerned over the years by the emphasis placed on the trotter, Neville turned his efforts toward showcasing the pacers, particularly the 3-year-olds.
The Little Brown Jug Society was formed to stage the Grand Circuit meeting, and Neville headed the organization with Thomson as secretary-treasurer.
Then came the birth of the Little Brown Jug, named through a newspaper contest, with its previews in 1944 and 1945. The initial Jug in 1946, with a purse of $35,358, was won by Ensign Hanover with Delaware's Wayne "Curly" Smart driving. Smart, a most successful trainer-driver on the Grand Circuit, was later to become an integral part of the Jug's operation as the track superintendent.
Over the years the track monopolized the half-mile record section with world standard performances, mainly through Smart's skill in maintaining the fastest racing strip of its size in the country. Through its humble beginnings, the Little Brown Jug grew slowly to become perhaps the most traditional stake on the pacing gait. In 1956 the Jug provided the anchor for the newly designated Triple Crown of Pacing to go along with The Cane Pace at Yonkers (N.Y.) Raceway and the Messenger Stake then at Roosevelt Raceway in Westbury, N.Y.
A review of Jug winners over the years produces the names of many of the all-time greats in the sport.
The great Tar Heel, driven by Del Cameron, produced the first two-minute mile in 1951. Adios Butler, reined by Clint Hodgins, broke the two-minute barrier with a 1:59.2 clocking in 1959 and went on to become the first triple crown winner.
Bret Hanover, with Frank Ervin in the sulky, added to Jug lore in 1965. After Smart-directed track maintenance crews scraped the racing surface following 24-hour rains, Bret Hanover won in the sensational time of 1:57. Bret's time remained the fastest until 1977 when Governor Skipper, driven by John Chapman, won in 1:56.1. Hot Hitter was the 1979 victor in 1:55.3, Niatross in 1980 in 1:54.4, and Lonestar Legend became the first 1:50 performer in 2008 with his 1:49.3 mile.
This pacing stake has maintained its impeccable reputation through the efforts of the Little Brown Jug Society with the cooperation of its host, the Delaware County Agricultural Society.
The Little Brown Jug is a part of Americana. And it shall ever remain so.
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