It is the pleasant custom of many Little Brown Jug fans at the Delaware ( Ohio) County Fair to consume a prerace tailgate lunch of fried chicken and, in addition, to get lightly saut�ed themselves, especially on chilly Jug days. Last Thursday was cold enough to de-kink every tail in the swine pavilion at the fair. But at least one knowing Jug man needed no artificial stimulants. In fact, as he warmed up his pacer, Lehigh Hanover, on Delaware's half-mile saucer, Driver Stanley Dancer was merrily belting out the chorus of When the Saints Go Marching In.
Dancer's blithe manner seemed odd. Although he is a master driver and trainer and in Lehigh had lots of horse between the shafts, he was supposed to be terribly afraid of Coffee Break, a swift, pony-sized bay driven by jockey-sized George Sholty. Every other rival in the field of 13—the fastest ever, with 10 horses already under the magic two-minute mark for a racing mile—was said to share this same worry. "Coffee Break stands out," was the word around the Jug paddock.
And so Stanley was neglected by a good many stable strollers (not to mention bettors) before the first Jug heat. The nose-patters mostly wanted to pat Coffee Break, the tough little colt who had paced the fastest harness racing mile of 1962 a few weeks before—1:57, at Springfield, Ill.
No visitors, please
But Coffee Break wasn't receiving visitors. Hidden in his stall by a blanket draped across the doorway, he stood with his left front leg in a rubber ice boot. He had bowed a tendon in the spring. Ice treatments and Sholty's patient touch had kept him fit enough, despite his serious mishap, to win six of 13 starts for the year.
"I can never tell how he'll do until I race him," said Sholty, the smallest (5 feet 3, 110 pounds) driver alive and one of the best and most exciting. "I hardly work him at all between races for fear he'll go lame."
The Jug field was split into two elimination heats, with six horses in the first and seven in the second. The four leading horses from the first and five from the second heat would return for a third mile. If no horse won two of the three heats, the three heat winners would race still another mile to determine the final victor in the most esteemed stake for 3-year-old pacers.
Dancer, who was up against the favored Sholty in the first heat and also John Simpson with Thor Hanover (71-to-1 winner of The Messenger Stake), was the 5-to-2 second choice. Breaking with Lehigh from the No. 2 post, he coolly rolled along in fourth place for three quarters and then pulled outside, rounding the last turn behind a flying Coffee Break. Surprisingly, in a very short stretch, Lehigh trounced Sholty's colt by no less than 1� lengths at the wire, and Coffee Break narrowly saved second place from Del Miller's Meadow Battles. The dazzling fractions were 29[1/5], 59, 1:29[4/5], the final quarter in 29. A brush from the outside post to the first quarter probably cooked Thor for the day, although he finished fourth.
Lehigh's near-record clocking was astonishing for so raw a day; hot, still weather is the best for extreme pacing speed. "In that fast a heat on a day like this," said Sholty, "I was tickled to death to finish where I did."
"You know," said Stan Dancer impishly, "I think Lehigh had some pace left."