DELAWARE, Ohio (AP) — Heavily favored Betting Line captured the Little Brown Jug under a cloud of controversy on Thursday after the discovery of text messages that implied the winning horse may have been given an unauthorized supplement.
Betting Line beat Western Fame going away by eight lengths in a 1:49 world record for 3-year-old pacing colts on a half-mile track in the third leg of harness racing’s triple crown. It was the largest margin of victory in Jug history, and he did it facing just five competitors, the smallest field since the Jug was first raced in 1946.
For hometown driver David Miller, it was his fourth trip to the Jug winner’s circle, and it was the third win for Canadian trainer Casie Coleman. Betting Line won his 13th straight race.
“He is definitely the best horse I’ve ever trained,” said Coleman, the only woman to train a Jug winner. “He never gets tired, this horse. His wind, his speed, his talent. There have been many times I was not an overly happy camper where he was sitting coming around the last turn, and he just mows them down. He just doesn’t want to lose. He wants to win.”
Sent off as the favorite, Betting Line’s victory was far from a surprise. But the discovery of three questionable texts between Coleman and the horse’s caretakers earlier in the day prompted the filing of a protest by Western Fame’s trainer, Hall of Famer Jimmy Takter, and conditioners Ron Burke and Tony Alagna.
The texts instructed Coleman’s staff to provide Betting Line with a supplement, which is against the rules close to race time. Coleman, however, said the texts referred to vanilla yogurt, which she provides the horse before every race.
The controversy prompted trainers to keep their horses off the track for five minutes while Betting Line paraded alone before his 1:50.4 first elimination victory.
Burke said: “I’m sure she is going to say she didn’t do it, but I can read the text messages. I can form my own opinion. She can say she’s wrong or I’m wrong. I know what I read. I know what I think it means. I’m going to stand by it.”
Western Fame, driven by Mark McDonald, won the second division in 1:50.1.
Takter said he considered keeping his entries, Western Fame and Lyons Snyder, out of the race but felt it would not be fair to the fans.
“We decided to race for the people who are coming out here,” he said. “If not we would have taken them home. I’m not going to pinpoint and say she did something wrong. It sure didn’t look good in the text. We have to have a clean sport.”
Coleman captured the 2012 Jug with Michael’s Power and the 2013 edition with Vegas Vacation.
Betting Line’s victory comes 15 years after his sire, Bettor’s Delight, won the 2001 edition of the Jug.
The Cane Pace, the first leg of the pacing triple crown, was won by Control The Moment. The second leg is The Messenger Stake, won by Racing Hill.