Hightstown, NJ — Attending the Little Brown Jug has been on Blair Corbeil’s bucket list for a while, but the longtime horse owner only wanted to go if he had a horse in the race.
On Thursday, Corbeil will be at his first Little Brown Jug, ready to follow the exploits of his pacer Warrawee Vital. Ironically, owning a horse in the race is the only way he could be there this year as fans are prohibited from attending the races at the Delaware County Fairgrounds because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’ve been wanting to go to the Jug forever and I’ve said that I want to have a horse in the Jug when I go,” said Corbeil, a 56-year-old resident of Beaumont, Alberta, Canada. “This is my first one. It’s unfortunate the fans will not be there, but it will be exciting no matter what. We’re excited about the opportunity, that’s for sure.
“I think everybody that’s been in the business long enough dreams about having the chance of being there and winning that race.”
A total of 14 horses entered the 75th edition of the Little Brown Jug, one of harness racing’s premier events for 3-year-old male pacers. The field was divided into two eliminations, from which the top-four finishers in each group advance to the same-day final. Each elimination goes for $111,800 and the final is $335,400.
Warrawee Vital is the morning line’s 3-1 second choice in the second elimination. The colt will start from post three with Tim Tetrick driving for trainer Rob Fellows. Capt Midnight, trained by Tony Alagna, is the 5-2 favorite, starting from post two with Dexter Dunn.
Adios winner Catch The Fire is the 5-2 favorite in the first elimination. He leaves from post five with Mike Wilder driving for John Ackley.
Warrawee Vital, a son of Captaintreacherous out of Great Memories, has won seven of 11 career races and $107,307. He is a half-brother to O’Brien Award winner Warrawee Needy and two-time Dan Patch Award winner Warrawee Ubeaut, who won last year’s Jugette for 3-year-old female pacers at Delaware.
“When we bought the colt in Lexington, he had the pedigree and breeding behind him to be this good,” said Corbeil, who shares ownership of Warrawee Vital with Yolanda Fellows and M&S Racing Stable. “He’s very versatile. He’s got tremendous gate speed and he’s got that kick to come home with. He seems to be the full package.”
Last year, Warrawee Vital was unraced until December, when he won one of two races at Mohawk. After the calendar changed to 2020, the colt won a second race in January and then two preliminary divisions of the Snowshoe Series for 3- and 4-year-old pacers before finishing second in the final.
It was enough of an audition to give his connections the confidence to stake Warrawee Vital for the summer and fall. Fellows gave the colt time off to freshen up, but then hit another delay training back for the stakes season. Warrawee Vital returned to the races in August, finishing second in a conditioned race and eighth in a North America Cup elimination before putting together a three-race win streak that he brings to the Jug.
His two most recent victories came in divisions of the Simcoe and Somebeachsomewhere stakes.
“He got to the races early enough (at age 2) but he had some problems, so I gave him time off,” Fellows said. “I raced him in the winter to see if he was good enough to stake him, and he showed that he was.
“Then training down in the spring, he had a little soreness problem, so I gave him time for that and that’s why I’m so late in getting to the table. But he’s raced well so far. His best quality is that he’s smart. He’s learned quickly what he’s had to learn. He’s caught on very well. And he’s fast, very fast.”
Fellows is racing in the Jug for the second time in his career, but first time since 1988 when Just Bold finished third in his first heat and seventh in the final, won by B J Scoot.
“I’ve gone there since I was a kid and it’s nice to take a horse there,” Fellows said. “(Warrawee Vital) has never raced on a half-mile track, but he trains on it. Hopefully, he’s competitive and gives a good representation of himself.”
Said Corbeil, “Rob and Yolanda have done a fantastic job. They deserve something like this too. We’re not the type of owners that have the opportunity to attend these big races all the time. It definitely means a lot to us to have this opportunity.”
In addition to the Little Brown Jug, Thursday’s card at Delaware includes the Miss Versatility Series final for older female trotters, the Old Oaken Bucket for 3-year-old trotters, and divisions of the Standardbred Stakes for 2-year-old male trotters and pacers.
Manchego is the 7-5 favorite in the Miss Versatility final while Hobbs is the even-money choice in the Old Oaken Bucket.
Racing begins at noon (EDT). For complete entries, click here.