Jujubee Is Leading A Fairy Tale Life

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

One of the most intriguing, enigmatic horses of the past few seasons has been the 2021 Dan Patch Trotter of the Year, Jujubee. The now 5-year-old returns to The Meadowlands, site of two of his greatest victories, to compete with eight talented older trotters in the $278,000 John Cashman Memorial Open Trot on Hambletonian Day.


Jujubee’s story is truly a Horatio Alger-like tale, depicting the rewards one may reap from hard work and persistence. His racing career is one from which humbler beginnings would be difficult to fathom.


As the say in the fairy tales…Once Upon A Time…


Owners Jon and Joyce Erdner bred La Cantera, a Cantab Hall mare of modest ability Jon had bought as a yearling, three times with the resulting foals earning a cumulative total $3,769 before they took her to Creatine in 1999.


That would prove to be a winning move as the result was a beautiful, jet black colt that would be called Jujubee, a term Jon uses frequently in conversation. Over the next few years, his resume would come to include the aforementioned Dan Patch Award, a Breeders Crown, the PA Sires Stakes final and a 1:49.3 win in the 2021 Kentucky Futurity. Jujubee was the very first 3-year-old trotter to beat 1:50 at The Meadowlands with his 1:49.4 track record and remains the only 3-year-old trotter in history to have won under 1:50 twice. Overall, Jujubee has won 18 of his 34 lifetime starts on his way to career earnings of $1,178,145.


But, let’s begin at the beginning. For years, Greg Wright, Sr had winter trained the Erdner’s horses at the Hawkinsville Training Center in central Georgia, a delightful facility in what could be described as a sleepy little southern hamlet.


Here’s where it really gets interesting…when Erdner’s horses were delivered to Wright as yearlings, Jujubee had been confused with an Uncle Peter colt and trained down under that assumption. When they came north, Jujubee, thought to be the Uncle Peter colt, was sent to trainer Scott Mogan to prepare to compete in the Ohio program. It was not until he was entered to qualify that the case of mistaken identity was realized and Jujubee, being a son of Creatine, was not Ohio but PA eligible.


Well, after a two month hiatus due to sickness, Jujubee was shipped back to The Meadows and placed in the stable of Greg Wright, Jr. By then the year was half over and with circumstances as they were, selling the colt was discussed. But Greg saw something in him training down and Jujubee qualified in October, broke his maiden in 1:59.1 and trotted in 1:57.1 in a second place finish.


“I was really impressed with him once he got to the races,” said Greg, Jr. about his start. “He showed us enough in those few starts to bring him back and pay him into the sires stakes. It was a short winter for him, he needed starts so we brought him back kind of early to prepare for a late closer before the stakes started, and he just kept getting better.”


The start back as a sophomore was a win in a March overnight for Greg, who then enlisted Tony Hall to drive and Jujubee would go on to win that late-closer final, then two PA Sires Stakes. By August, Jujubee’s record stood at 9 wins and two seconds from 13 starts and nearly $150,000 earned. With no stakes other than the PASS and the confidence that their horse could compete at the top level, Jujubee was entered at The Meadowlands where he trotted to a track record of 1:49.4 in the Muscle Hill.


“He’d beaten some pretty good colts in the PASS and we wanted to see how he’d measure up against the Grand Circuit types. He wasn’t staked to anything else, so we were going to have to supplement him to whatever was available and we needed to know if he was good enough”, Greg remembered. “The Muscle Hill was perfect. He was great, beat a top colt in Dancinginthedark there and went fast.”


That mile launched a fairy tale Fall season; Jujubee was matched with Andrew McCarthy and virtually ran the table, winning the PASS final, Langley Memorial, KY Futurity and Breeders Crown wins, nearly $1 million in earnings and the year-end honors.


The Erdners had offers to sell; but chose instead to keep their pride and joy in anticipation of racing him as an older horse. Thus, Jujubee and Greg Jr. spent the winter in Vero Beach to prep and it went well right up until an April Spring Garden qualifier where, despite a 1:56.1 win, Greg felt the horse wasn’t just perfect. Extensive examination revealed a tiny shadow in a hind pastern and the plan went on hold until September.


With that much time lost and the others racing into top form, it’s tough playing catch-up, particularly at that level. And although he won the Allerage in 1:50.2 while making nearly $200,000 in just seven starts, the season was a disappointment.


“He battled issues all year. First the crack, from which he recovered quickly and qualified good at Pocono. But then he was a little sick, lost more time and there were no easy starts. He got foot sore, so on The Red Mile surface we got along ok, but when we went back to the stone dust tracks it was a problem,” the trainer recalled.

So, another winter off and another return. A decent start at Pocono to begin then off to the Cutler at The Meadowlands and a disappointing 10th place finish.


Wright spoke to the season thus far, “This year year we are in a better place then last year, he had two good qualifiers but then bled in the Pocono race. Andrew was very happy with the way he felt that first start but he flattened out uncharacteristically down the lane. The horse was too agressive early in the mile and Andrew actually thought he may have choked him. We had him scoped post race and found that he had bled.”


“Pretty simple fix right? Just put him on Lasix. Well, Jujubee is a very active stud, it’s always been a chore to keep him hydrated and I was concerned about it, but Lasix it was. So off to the Meadowlands we go for our first start on Lasix with a bad draw.”


“Keeping him hydrated with the shipping and heat ended up being too much and he came out of the race with the thumps / an electrolyte imbalance. I believe we have that under control now and we’ll do everything we can to keep him in check…so far so good.”

The good news is that Jujubee is coming into the Cashman Memorial after setting the all-time trotting track record of 1:51.1 for driver Hunter Myers in an Open at The Meadows last Friday.

In Saturday’s Cashman, Jujubee will start from post five in the field of nine, be reunited with Andy McCarthy and look to continue his Cinderfella Story for his loyal connections.

It’s all happening at The Meadowlands on Saturday afternoon, the “Greatest Day In Harness Racing”. Find all pertinent details on the web.


Photo is Jujubee and Greg Wright, Jr at The Red Mile after KY Futurity win.