Jug week is over and I for one am sorry it didn't end sooner. For a week which usually shows harness racing at its county fair best with some of the best horses racing, this is a week which will be known as the appearance of an unwelcome guest and in true American-theater, Yogurtgate.
The controversy started the day before the Jugette when persona non-grata Lou Pena was seen inside the stall of entrant I Said Diamonds which necessitated a scratch of the filly. Pena is not licensed in Ohio and as such it was a violation of detention rules. One can wonder what Pena was doing in the stall. It is not my place to make any accusations, but being Pena is a person with a checkered past, his presence was certainly not welcomed by the vast majority of the race's participants. It will be up to Ohio racing officials to determine what kind of relationship Pena may have with the listed trainer Matias Ruiz.
If that wasn't bad enough, then came Yogurtgate. When a phone lost by one of Trainer Cassie Coleman's assistants was found, the person came upon messages which could have been considered indicative of wrong-doing, possibly suggesting treating the horse in violation of detention barn rules. Coleman claims the 'treatment' talked about was yogurt though one has to wonder why the message didn't say "..get his yogurt into him.." instead of referring to a 'treatment'. Maybe it was a poor choice of words but it certainly caused a lot of controversy with trainers threatening a mass scratch but thankfully voting instead not to post parade with the eventual Jug winner Betting Line and racing under protest. To be balanced, it needs to be reported that Coleman's stalls, trailer, and car were searched by racing officials with nothing coming up. Needless to say, even if completely vindicated, this will not be one of racing's proudest moments, one covered by the Columbus Dispatch for its readers.
Sadly, apparently Coleman uses any old yogurt. Think of the commercial endorsements which could have been forthcoming if a named-brand was used.
One thing is for sure, Delaware needs to be more vigilant in the future when it comes to detention barn enforcement as this is something the Jug doesn't need to have repeated.
A positive (if there is one) is the fact named trainers went to the judges in both cases. Maybe the wall of silence has been breached. Of course, let's see if these trainers will go to judges when they see something in a $15,000 race. If so, then this year's Jugette and Jug may be marked down as a turning point. If not, then this will be a blot not soon forgotten.