Mr. James W. Baskin, Member of Parliament for Renfrew South, Ontario, flew down to Delaware, Ohio last week to watch the Little Brown Jug. Delaware was jammed for Jug day, as usual, and the M.P. was obliged to spend the night on a cot in the fourth-floor hallway of the only hotel in town. But this slight breach of the international amenities regarding the treatment of distinguished visitors hardly disturbed Jim Baskin. By the time he slipped into his cot on Jug night he had seen and celebrated an amazing series of triumphs for Canadian horsemen. And the handsome, wiry Mr. Baskin was well equipped to appreciate what he saw, since he trains and drives his own harness horses in Ontario.
In races before the Jug itself he first saw Canadian Earle Avery drive Muncy Hanover to victory in the Ohio Futurity, in world record time for 2-year-olds. Then Canadian Joe O'Brien won the Invitational Pace with Sunbelle, racing two successive heats in two minutes or better for the first time in history on any half-mile track. Finally, in the day's climax for Baskin and 35,000 other fans, Canadians Clint Hodgins and O'Brien finished one-two in the Jug, our annual fall classic for 3-year-old pacers. En route to the Jug victory, Hodgins won his first heat with Adios Butler in 1:59 2/5, the first time two minutes was ever beaten in this race.
Maintaining the dignity of his station, Jim Baskin saluted the superb performances of his countrymen and then dwelt thoughtfully on Hodgins, the hero of the day, of course.
"Clint comes from a very small place in western Ontario called Clandeboye," said the M.P. "Just a crossroads community, really. He comes home at the end of the season each year, and the first night he's home he hires a band and has a big party and everyone comes from miles around and dances all night, especially Clint. Should be quite a party his first night home this year. I wish everyone understood Clint the way they do in Clandeboye."
Well, Clint Hodgins takes understanding. Stocky, stolid, suspicious of strangers, he is seldom at ease after leaving Ontario each year except when he plants himself in a sulky. There he's at home again, his powerful arms and shoulders in complete command of the horse in front of him, his ability to communicate racing strategy to a dumb beast uncanny and priceless. At 52, he's been among the sport's best drivers for decades.
RECORD HEAT WAS EASY
In the Jug, admittedly, he had the best colt on the race track. But his own performance was still magnificent. The first heat appeared to be a breeze, yet, as noted, Adios Butler smashed all Jug records. Guidance from the powerful arms and shoulders was sporadic and brief. "I hardly talked to him at all," said Hodgins afterward. "There's times you feel you'll get the best out of a horse when you leave him pretty much alone. 'Course, you can guess wrong." Because of the remarkable rapport he is able to establish with a horse, Hodgins seldom guesses wrong.
In the final heat Joe O'Brien, driving his game Meadow Al, forced Hodgins to display his skill. It was a pleasure to watch their duel. Hodgins maneuvered Butler's half ton of horseflesh like a toy, nearly always keeping horses between himself and O'Brien so he could anticipate every challenge from the man he had to beat. Then Butler outpaced Meadow Al in the stretch by a clear length.
At the traditional Jug party and dance that night, honored guest Clint Hodgins was again as ill at ease as a little boy in the barber chair for the first time. He wore his dark suit and company manners like a plaster cast. He will dance to this victory in Clandeboye, not before.