An estimated 50,000 spectators will take over the Delaware County Fairgrounds Thursday, Sept. 19, as harness-racers and their horses vie for a win at the 68th annual Little Brown Jug.
The horses and drivers racing in the Jug's final round won't be revealed until Thursday afternoon, but that hasn't stopped gamblers from making bets on who will take it all.
From noon Sept. 15 through 11:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 18, wagers can be made on which horses will make it to the final race and what place they'll be awarded.
"Future wagering isn't a huge betting interest because people are betting on horses that may not even be in the race, but it's a great way for us to get people excited about the Brown Jug and make them do some homework before they get here," race director Tom Wright said.
It takes just a $1 bet to get into the future-wagering pool. On the day of the races, bets also start at $1.
Wright joked that even with his years of experience, he's never as lucky as he'd like to be when betting on races, but he still offered some tips on what to look for before placing money on a driver and horse.
"A lot of people look at how they've done on their last four or five starts and how much money have they been racing for because racing for more money could mean they're racing in a better class," he said.
"People also look at the time that a horse has had, and who is driving the horse makes a huge difference. Some people put heavy consideration into the post position. There are a lot of factors that go into it."
Horses that will race in the elimination rounds were to be announced at 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 14. Wright said ahead of the lineup announcement that he expected 17 to 22 horsemen to give the Jug a try.
As of Sept. 10, Little Brown Jug publicity director Jay Wolf named Vegas Vacation, a horse based in Ontario with more than $646,000 in career earnings, as a favorite for the win. Wolf's last weekly Top 10 list included horses with owners from multiple Canadian territories, New Jersey, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Kentucky.
Wright said although drivers tend to travel to get to the Jug, some will be well-known to those who frequent races at Scioto Downs. In addition, harness racers who train at the Little Brown Jug track were expected to join the race.
The Little Brown Jug winner expect to take home anywhere from 45 percent to 55 percent of an estimated $550,000 purse, Wright said.
Typically, the purse is made up of horse nomination payments and a $50,000 donation from the race track, but for the first time this year, the Ohio Harness Horsemen's Association put forth $50,000 as well.
"Because of the slots that have begun in the Racinos, there are monies that come from the slots that are dedicated to the harness program in the state of Ohio, and those funds are managed by the Ohio Harness Horsemen's Association," Wright said. "What's very unique to us this year is that they have made the decision to assist Delaware with some of our purses."
The association has donated $15,000 to the purse for each of the eight Ohio Breeders Championship races.
Although the Jug is the main event of the week, Grand Circuit harness racing will take over the track Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday, as well.
A full schedule of races and information about purchasing tickets for the Jug are available online at littlebrownjug.com.