On Little Brown Jug day shades were lowered at noon in the shop fronts in Delaware, Ohio, and the butcher, the baker and the Goldwater-makers packed canvas chairs and bottles of hooch into the family wagon and drove off to the county fair. Some 35,000 people showed up at the pacing classic last week, despite a stormy sky and a gusty wind that whipped the saucer-shaped track. But the crowd, many wrapped Indian-style in colored blankets, seemed oblivious to the cold as it cheered Donald MacFarlane's Vicar Hanover, the winner of this year's $66,591 Jug. Better horses have won this race, but none was ever more deserving than the robust little bay from Billy Haughton's barn.
Vicar has more heart than horse sense to race as well as he does. "Some mornings," Trainer Haughton admits, "he walks out looking like he has a broken leg." And Vicar's broken legs are not confined to morning walks. Bothered by a calcium deposit in an ankle joint, the tough son of the 1957 Jug winner Torpid (and grandson of two other Jug winners) has been hurting for a year. He often returns from a prerace warmup lame, and track veterinarians run to see if he is fit to perform. Their worry usually is unjustified. Vicar Hanover gives the public-its money's worth and frequently a dividend as well.
The colt arrived in Delaware with 16 wins, 10 seconds, two thirds and earnings of $106,864 in 35 starts. Haughton stuck with him last winter and spring when veterinarians and other horsemen walked away from the colt shaking their heads. There were 100 other horses in Billy's barn, and the temptation to forget about Vicar must have been great. Most people would have prescribed rest for the horse and rest for the trainer, but if you lay up a cripple you may never get him back to the racetrack. Jimmy Siver, Haughton's assistant at Delaware, put it thus: "If you give up, you're beat." At one point Vicar, not Haughton, began to climb the walls of the stable, but Billy rigged up a ceiling of chicken wire above his stall, and the 3-year-old calmed down.
Before the Jug, the coifs left foreleg was painted and bound 24 hours a day in cold-water bandages. He warmed up for the race sounder than he had been since June, but Haughton worried. "I haven't trained him to go heats," he said, "because I'm afraid of the leg. I'd rather take the chance of him being short. But he doesn't feel sharp. He's not up on the bit."
Because 13 horses were entered, this year's Jug was split into divisions of seven and six horses. The luck of the draw put Vicar in the strongest half, along with the Miron brothers' $100,000 purchase, Red Carpet, and the Adios colt, Lyss Hanover. In the second division Combat Time, a bay colt owned by three Ohio men—a doctor, an aspiring Congressman and a tavern keeper—stood out. Combat Time had won 19 of 26 heats this year, many of them at fairs throughout the state. If the first half was as fast as seemed likely, and Combat Time had a soft mile, the Ohio colt would be tough in the race-off. But the forecasters were as wrong about the two mile heats as they were all week in predicting sunny weather.
In the first division Haughton had Vicar on the lead as they passed the quarter pole in 30[2/5]. No one forced him faster, so the colt reeled off the next two quarters in 32⅕ and 30[2/5]. He went under the wire a length and a quarter in front of Vernon Dancer's Lyss Hanover, who led Red Carpet by the identical margin. The final time for the heat was a slow 2:02.
Don MacFarlane, the broad, blustery attorney who owns Vicar Hanover, could not contain his jubilation. He threw his arms around a 240-pound bruiser standing beside him on the back-stretch and kissed him. Then to cool the temper of the embarrassed gentleman, he pulled out a crisp, new $100 bill as a peace offering.
Haughton just smiled as he slid out of the sulky. "I never thought it would be that easy a trip," he remarked.
In the second division Bruce Nickells pushed Combat Time to a first quarter, against the wind, of 29[2/5] and, although he was lengths in front of the field most of the way, he kept the son of Good Time hustling for the full mile. He finished three lengths ahead of the Haughton-trained Sheer Genius in 2:00[4/5].
Nickells is the soft-spoken, friendly, 36-year-old champion driver of Ohio. He was amused when someone asked for his autograph but was as enthusiastic about Combat Time's mile as Haughton was about Vicar's. "Halt's done," he said grinning broadly. "Now the other half."
By the time the first five finishers in Vicar's heat and the first four in Combat Time's came back for the final mile, the sky had darkened and the lights on the Ferris wheel behind the stands were twinkling. Vicar, by a shake of the dice, drew the rail with Combat Time just outside him. MacFarlane's good-luck piece had disappeared with the $100, but it did not matter.
Billy Haughton showed why fellow horsemen consider him a master reins-man. He has won more money and more races than anyone else in the business, with driving skill that few can match. In the first quarter he took the sting out of Combat Time by forcing him to go in 28[2/5]. He parked Nickells out all the way, and only after Bruce had whipped his colt was he able to get around Vicar and over to the hub rail Passing the stands the first time, Combat Time led, and Senator Burton, Red Carpet and Lyss swarmed up outside of Haughton. Around the track and into the final quarter, Combat Time kept his lead, and Nickells became more intent on the track in front of him than on what was happening behind. Senator Burton suddenly broke stride, Red Carpet and Lyss went wide, and there was an instant when Haughton could get clear. At the top of the stretch Vicar raced up to Combat Time. With [1/16] of a mile to go, he rolled by him and drew away an easy ¾-length winner in 2:01.
In the crab apple orchard on the back-stretch, Don MacFarlane and his wife pulled a case of champagne out of their station wagon. Corks popped, and Mrs. MacFarlane, with a let of orchids bobbing around her neck, thrust paper cupfuls of bubbly into strangers' hands. At the barn Billy Haughton and his vivacious blonde wife, Dot, sat on a tack box outside the winner's stall. "It was worth it all," the trainer said, looking at his horse through the webbing. "Yes," his wife agreed, "but I burned all afternoon long. Every time Vicar went by, the sweet, gray-haired lady sitting behind me leaned over and said, 'Look how funny he walks, just like a circus horse.' I felt like saying, 'But, lady, the horse only has three legs.' "
LOCKED IN on the rail in second position, Billy Haughton sits behind Vicar Hanover and waits for an opening to make his move, as Bruce Nickells and Combat Time lead Little Brown Jug field into final quarter of the decisive mile heat.
DELIGHTED by Vicar's win, Mrs. MacFarlane hugs her pacer.