The Little Brown Jug harness race has thrived for more than 70 years and this year's race, slated for Thursday, Sept. 19, during the Delaware County Fair, promises to be no exception.
"It's not just a horse race. We like to say we're an event," said Brown Jug race secretary Tom Wright.
The fair opened Sept. 14 on its grounds at 236 Pennsylvania Ave., in Delaware and runs through Sunday, Sept. 21.
The Jug is Delaware County's annual event that draws global attention and is one of the key draws for the fair, Wright said.
Racing is held throughout Jug Day and preliminary heats lead up to the Jug which is the race for 3-year-old standardbreds and along with the Hambletonian is one of the most prestigious races in the sport.
The race routinely draws tour groups from Australia and New Zealand, he said, and this year's field might include three horses from Canada.
The 2018 race for 3-year-old standardbred horses had been expected to attract a crowd of 40,000, but more than 42,000 showed up, Wright said.
Also last year, prize money for the Jug -- which is based on the number of entries, and whether the race has two or three divisions -- had been expected to hit about $350,000.
Instead, Wright said, it topped $642,000 and "we're hoping for something similar this year" in terms of an increase.
The race is simulcast in Ohio's casinos and up to 300 locations elsewhere, including many in other countries, he added.
The amount of money wagered last year at simulcast locations topped about $3 million, exceeding the $2 million bet in Delaware, Wright said.
A direct beneficiary of those wagers is the health of the harness racing industry in Ohio, he said.
State law prescribes that a portion of the money wagered on the race goes to the Ohio Harness Horsemen's Association, which represents harness racing.
That pays a year-round dividend at the county fairgrounds, he said.
More than 140 are employed training horses at the fairgrounds, he said, with several veterinarians likely to be on the scene during any given work day.
A study commissioned by the horsemen's association found that harness racing also contributes about $1.4 billion annually to the Ohio economy.
The traditional way to bet at a harness race is at a parimutuel window, and the fairgrounds will staff 148 of them -- in both buildings and tents, Wright said.
There also will be about 40 self-operated wagering terminals, he said.
The terminals walk the user through the betting process, with options for the type of bet, amount to be bet and horse selection, he said. The terminal will then print the wager ticket.
Races are held throughout fair week, as well as race-related activities including autograph sessions, meet and greets with racing personalities and horses, a speakers series, a prayer breakfast and seminars held by the Ohio Harness Horsemen's Association.
Wright recommends people buy a race program, which contains a daily schedule.
The fair will sell beer and wine at five spots around the racetrack, and liquor will be available at three sites, said county fair manager Sandra Kuhn. A Little Brown Jug tradition is allowing attendees to bring their own alcohol when watching the racing from the track's backstretch, where there are no bleachers.
"It's always our goal to provide a fun event" and the race crowd is asked to be responsible and bring only plastic containers and cans to the track, said Jay Wolf, Brown Jug publicity spokesman.
Law enforcement officers will be walking the fairgrounds, he said.
Another tradition peculiar to the Little Brown Jug, Wright said, is that race spectators claim a spot trackside by chaining folding chairs to the fence surrounding the track. As the race draws closer, he said, more chairs appear on the fence.
At one section of the fence last week, he said, the number of chairs had grown to 300.