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DELAWARE, OH – September 22, 2015 -- Eight years ago, Joe Sbrocco watched Hot Rod Mindale, a horse he co-owned at the time with several partners, finish second to Tell All in the Little Brown Jug. It was a moment the Ohio resident called “the thrill of my life.”

On Thursday, New Jersey Sire Stakes champion Artspeak will try to make Sbrocco’s life even more thrilling.

Artspeak, the 2014 Dan Patch Award winner for best 2-year-old male pacer, will start from post No. 1 in the second of two first-heat eliminations for Thursday’s $677,000 Little Brown Jug brought to you by Fazoli’s at the Delaware County Fairgrounds in central Ohio. The colt, who will have Scott Zeron in the sulky for trainer Tony Alagna, is the 5-2 second choice on the morning line behind 4-5 favorite Wiggle It Jiggleit in the event for 3-year-old male pacers.

Zeron became the youngest driver to win the Jug in 2012 when he piloted Michael’s Power to victory at the age of 23.

A horse must win two one-mile races on the same day to capture the Little Brown Jug trophy. Fifteen horses entered the Jug and were divided into two first-heat eliminations. Lost For Words, who is stabled regularly at the Delaware County Fairgrounds with trainer Brian Brown, is the 2-1 morning line favorite in the first division.

The top four finishers in each elimination advance to the second heat. If one of the two elimination winners is victorious in the second heat, he is the Jug champion. Otherwise, the three heat-winners return for a race-off. The last race-off was in 2000, when Astreos won the event.

Coverage of the Little Brown Jug will air live from 5-6:30 p.m. on CBS Sports Network.

Artspeak, this year’s New Jersey Sire Stakes champion, heads to the Little Brown Jug off a career-best 1:48.2 win in the Simcoe Stakes on Sept. 12 at Mohawk Racetrack. The time established the stakes record, shaving one-fifth of a second off the previous mark set by 2013 Little Brown Jug champion Vegas Vacation.

“It looks like he’s in top shape right now,” said the 74-year-old Sbrocco, who lives near Cleveland and has been involved in harness racing since 1970. “I’m anxious to get down there. We’ve always got to worry about Wiggle It Jiggleit, but it looks like he’s got a shot.”

Artspeak, a son of Western Ideal-The Art Museum, won eight of 10 races last year including the Metro Pace and Governor’s Cup. This season, he has won four of 12 starts and finished second in the Hempt Memorial and Cane Pace while increasing his lifetime bankroll to $1.22 million for owners Sbrocco, Brittany Farms, Marvin Katz, and In The Gym Partners.

He suffered from poor luck with the draws in the North America Cup and Battle of the Brandywine, starting from posts 10 and eight respectively, but got the coveted rail for his Little Brown Jug elimination. He will try to become the first divisional champion since Bettor’s Delight in 2001 to return and win the Jug.

“He’s had a tough year, but hopefully he’ll be the horse we’ve hoped for all year,” Sbrocco said. “I’m excited, I can tell you that. I think he’s going to give a good performance anyway. He’s not a very big horse and I think he’ll take the turns well. I think now he’s ready.”

Brittany Farms won the 1993 Little Brown Jug as the owner of Life Sign. Brittany Farms owner George Segal also was part of Jug-winning partnerships with Mr Feelgood in 2006 and Tell All in 2007. His three victories are tied with Jeff Snyder and Stanley Dancer for the most by an owner in history.

Now, Sbrocco would like to know the thrill of standing in the Little Brown Jug winner’s circle himself in his state’s premier race. The event attracts a crowd of more than 45,000-plus to the Delaware County Fairgrounds, located 30 miles north of Columbus.

“I’ve been going for years,” said Sbrocco, who has been involved in all aspects of harness racing, from driving in fairs to breeding and owning horses. “It’s so much fun. I enjoy that more than anything. It’s the greatest time.”

The Little Brown Jug is the third leg of this year’s Pacing Triple Crown. Dealt A Winner won the first jewel, the Cane Pace, and Revenge Shark captured the second, the Messenger Stakes.

Following are the fields in post order for the Little Brown Jug first-heat eliminations:

$108,320 First Elimination-Post Time 4:23 p.m.
Post–Horse-Driver-Trainer-Morning Line Odds
1. Lost For Words-David Miller-Brian Brown-2-1
2. Rockin In Heaven-Trevor Henry-Ian Moore-4-1
3. Yankee Bounty-Yannick Gingras-Ron Burke-6-1
4. Dude’s The Man-Corey Callahan-Jessica Okusko -5-2
5. Trading Up-Scott Zeron-Tony Alagna-15-1
6. Cooperstown-Matt Kakaley-Ron Burke-15-1
7. Split The House-Randy Waples-Chris Oakes-10-1

$108,320 Second Elimination-Post Time 4:48 p.m.
Post–Horse-Driver-Trainer-Morning Line Odds
1. Artspeak-Scott Zeron-Tony Alagna-5-2
2. Paparazzi Hanover-Matt Kakaley-Ron Burke-20-1
3. Rise Up Now-Tim Tetrick-Brian Brown-10-1
4. My Hero Ron-Yannick Gingras-Ron Burke-4-1
5. Wiggle It Jiggleit-Montrell Teague-Clyde Francis-4-5
6. Arque Hanover-Corey Callahan-Casie Coleman-15-1
7. Revenge Shark-Brett Miller-Tony Alagna-6-1
8. Blood Brother-David Miller-Jimmy Takter-20-1
$324,960 Second Heat (first four finishers from eliminations)-Post Time 6:15 p.m.
$135,400 Race-Off (if necessary)


Greg Martin wasn’t thinking about a broodmare when he bought Benear at the 2008 Standardbred Horse Sale’s Mixed Sale. He really wasn’t even looking for Benear. But when the Calgary resident saw the then 5-year-old mare, he felt an emotional response. When she entered the auction ring, he purchased her for $37,000.

“It’s just one of those silly things,” Martin said. “You pick up a horse on impulse and it turns out.”

Benear, who was a world champion on a five-eighths-mile track, failed to live up to Martin’s hopes as a racehorse the following season, but she has more than made up for it as a broodmare. She is the mother of 2014 Little Brown Jug winner Limelight Beach as well as 2015 Jugette hopeful Momas Got A Gun. No mare has ever produced a winner of each the Little Brown Jug and Jugette, much less had the winners in consecutive years.

“Her being a broodmare wasn’t even in my thinking because I wanted a racehorse,” Martin said about Benear, whose most recent foal to reach racing age, 2-year-old Manhattan Beach, finished third in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championship. “I guess when you have a mare that’s gone some pretty big miles you’re going to look at them as a broodmare. But it was kind of a crapshoot.”

Martin has a picture of Limelight Beach winning the Little Brown Jug hanging in his living room.

“It was over the top,” Martin said about the victory. “It was unbelievable. I was at the local off-track betting bar and everyone was looking at me while I’m hooting and hollering. There are no words to describe it.”

Martin sold Limelight Beach, then named Marblehead Johnson, as a yearling at the 2012 Standardbred Horse Sale. The colt went for $25,000. A year later, he considered selling Momas Got A Gun, but changed his mind because she was attracting little interest and he really liked the filly.

Momas Got A Gun, now owned by Martin’s son Geoff, is the 5-2 morning line favorite in the second of two eliminations for Wednesday’s $252,250 Jugette at the Delaware County Fairgrounds in central Ohio. She will start from post No. 2 with David Miller driving for trainer Virgil Morgan Jr.

She was one of 12 fillies entered in the Jugette, which is for 3-year-old female pacers and is the companion race to the Little Brown Jug for 3-year-old male pacers. The field was split into two $50,450 eliminations, with Brian Brown-trained Triple V Hanover being the 3-1 morning line favorite in the opening group. The top four finishers from each division return later in the day for the $151,350 final. A horse must only win the final to be declared the Jugette champion.

Post time is noon for Wednesday’s first race at the Delaware County Fairgrounds, located 30 miles north of Columbus. The Jugette eliminations are races 12 and 13. The final is race 17.

A daughter of stallion Somebeachsomewhere, Momas Got A Gun has won three of 14 races this year and earned $313,368. In her most recent eight starts, she has posted two wins, three seconds and two thirds. She is coming off back-to-back second-place finishes in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes championship, where she missed by a head, and the Valley Forge Stakes.

“She’s been right there,” Martin said. “No one has been consistently as competitive as Moma. The way she races, because she has such early good gate speed, it almost creates a problem. I personally think she’s better off a helmet, and so does Virgil. But if you look at all her races, I don’t think she’s ever been second-over. That’s one of the problems when you have a horse with such early good gate speed.”

Her early speed, though, might be a blessing on the half-mile oval at the Delaware County Fairgrounds.

“No one is going to beat her off the gate and that’s half the battle,” Martin said. “If you look at Limelight Beach last year, he won the Jug in the first 50 yards because no one challenged him. This filly can’t leave quite as fast, but she can leave. I think she’s going to win. I don’t want to come across being that arrogant, but I know she can do it.”

Martin began thinking about this year’s Jugette as Momas Got A Gun ended her 2014 campaign. She won four of eight races last season, with three of the victories coming in her final four starts. She never finished worse than third during the year, earning $46,711.

“(The Jugette) was on our radar,” Martin said. “I told Virgil last year when she was finishing up her campaign that this filly was going to win the Jugette. Virgil is a wonderful trainer. He is the ultimate professional. He goes out with every set of horses that trains and he’s a hard worker. I really respect that about him. He’s been so meticulous with this filly. He treats them like an athlete. He’s straight up. I love dealing with him.”

As for Momas Got A Gun’s name, it originated from Martin coming up with the name for another horse.

“I named another horse I’d bred Mad Bad Girlfriend,” Martin said. “I did name it after a girlfriend, and she thought it was quite funny. Then I said, just think if moma had a gun. It was just kind of a silly thing we had going. If momas got a gun, you better pay attention because they mean business.

“I love when you name horses. That’s part of the fun of the whole thing.”

Martin, who started his career with horses in the show world, used to train and drive Standardbreds, but last sat in the sulky in 2010. But there is no doubt he still loves harness racing.

“The best thing about Standardbred racing, unlike Thoroughbred, is that I think everyone pulls for each other,” Martin said. “I think people are happy when others do well. It’s a different feel.

“I wish everyone the best of luck. I just hope we’re a little luckier.”

Following are the Jugette elimination fields in post order with drivers, trainers and morning line odds.

$50,450 First Elimination
Post-Horse-Driver-Trainer-Morning Line
1. Triple V Hanover-David Miller-Brian Brown-3-1
2. Southwind Roulette-Matt Kakaley-Ron Burke-7-2
3. Bettor N Better-Yannick Gingras-Ron Burke-6-1
4. Moremercy Bluechip-Andy Miller-Julie Miller-10-1
5. Wicked Little Minx-Brett Miller-Nancy Johansson-12-1
6. Mosquito Blue Chip-Jim Morrill Jr.-Paul Jessop-7-2

$50,450 Second Elimination
1. Serious Filly-Scott Zeron-Brian Brown-6-1
2. Momas Got A Gun-David Miller-Virgil Morgan Jr.-5-2
3. Band Of Angels-Yannick Gingras-Ron Burke-3-1
4. Bedroomconfessions-Tim Tetrick-Tony Alagna-12-1
5. Somewhere Sweet-Jim Morrill Jr.-Brian Brown-8-1
6. Sassa Hanover-Matt Kakaley-Ron Burke-4-1

-Both Courtesy of Ken Weingartner/Harness Racing Communications/USTA

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