Lexington, KY — When trainer Joe Holloway set up a 2021 race schedule for Perfect Sting — whose perfect 10-for-10 record in 2020 led to Dan Patch honors as the 2-year-old Colt Pacer of the Year — the Little Brown Jug’s date of Sept. 23 was not checked off.
But with Woodbine Mohawk Park moving the C$1 million Pepsi North America Cup from its scheduled mid-June date to early September due to COVID-19 protocols in place in Ontario, Holloway had to go to “Plan B,” and that included sending Perfect Sting to Canada for the Cup and bypassing the Kentucky Sires Stakes at The Red Mile.
Plan B also included Perfect Sting competing in next week’s Jug at Delaware, Ohio, and that made his driver, David Miller, ecstatic.
“A couple weeks ago Joe (Holloway) had mentioned that they were going to take ‘Sting’ to Delaware, and I was like, ‘All right!'” said Miller. “He’s on his way there Monday (Sept. 20) and I’m pretty happy about that.”
With 233 career victories at Delaware, Miller is easily the all-time winningest driver over the half-mile oval. Miller has won five Little Brown Jugs (2003, No Pan Intended; 2008, Shadow Play; 2011, Big Bad John; 2016, Betting Line; and 2018, Courtly Choice), placing him in a three-way tie for all-time victories with William Haughton and Mike Lachance.
“I’m happy to get a drive in the race and I’m happy to be there,” said Hall of Famer Miller, who is teaming with fellow Hall of Famer Holloway in his quest for his record-breaking sixth Little Brown Jug victory.
After going undefeated in 10 starts last year, Perfect Sting heads to Delaware with a 2021 ledger of 10-4-5-1, with his earnings of $647,683 the most by a 3-year-old pacer this year. The son of Always B Miki comes into the Jug off a win in his North America Cup elimination on Sept. 4 and a second-place finish in the final on Sept. 11.
In addition to Perfect Sting’s North America Cup elim win, his other victories have come in the Tompkins-Geers at The Meadowlands, a Pennsylvania Sires Stake at The Meadows, and an overnight at The Meadowlands (a career-best 1:48.1 effort). In addition to the NA Cup final, his second-place finishes include the Meadowlands Pace, Hempt Memorial and Cane Pace.
While Perfect Sting has been ranked first in Little Brown Jug publicity director Jay Wolf’s top Jug contenders, Holloway admits his star pacer is in need of a signature victory to solidify his chances to repeat Dan Patch divisional honors this year.
“He hasn’t put them away but yeah, he’s been right there,” said Holloway from his barn at The Red Mile, where Perfect Sting and caretaker Diane Lewis will make the trip to Delaware from on Monday. “He needs to get some quality wins under his belt, and this could be one. If he can do that, that’d be good.”
Holloway said racing double heats in the Jug should not be a factor for Perfect Sting, who has yet to finish worse than third in his 20 career starts that has resulted in $1,181,983 in earnings for breeders-owners Brittany Farms and Val D’Or Farms.
“I’m not a huge fan of heats anymore, but if any horse can handle it, he can because he’s big and strong,” said Holloway.
Including his four-race sweep of last year’s Kentucky Sires Stakes events, Perfect Sting also scored victories in Bluegrass and International Stallion divisions, giving him a perfect six-for-six slate at The Red Mile. While Holloway is disappointed Perfect Sting could not duplicate his Sires Stakes performances this year, he said the colt will follow up the Jug with starts in the Oct. 3 Bluegrass and Oct. 10 Tattersalls, before heading to The Meadowlands for the Breeders Crown elims and final on Oct. 23 and Oct. 30.
“I would have stayed (at The Red Mile) for the Sires Stakes, and if he could have been in one leg he could have been in the final (on Sunday, Sept. 19), but I couldn’t get a leg in,” said Holloway.