by Mike Farrell, for Meadowlands Media Relations -
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., Wiggle It Jiggleit is ideally positioned for the $706,000 Crawford Farms Meadowlands Pace.
The 4-5 favorite has a cozy starting spot, post 4 against nine rivals, in the signature event at Meadowlands Racing & Entertainment on Saturday night.
The Pace tops a compelling 14-race card that also includes $443,000 Hambletonian Maturity for 4-year-old trotters, the $430,600 William R. Haughton Memorial featuring Free-For-All pacers, the $213,450 Golden Girls for Free-For-All pacing mares and the $201,350 Mistletoe Shalee for 3-year-old pacing fillies.
Fans looking ahead to the $1 million Hambletonian and $500,000 Hambletonian Oaks here on Aug. 8 can check out many of the leading 3-year-old trotters in two divisions of the Stanley Dancer Memorial and a single dash for the fillies in the Delvin Miller Memorial.
But the night belongs to the 3-year-old pacers, a division Wiggle It Jiggleit has dominated.
The son of Mr Wiggles has won 14 of 15 races in his brilliant career for George Teague Jr.
“It’s been a nice little run so far,” Teague said. “The draw didn’t hurt. We got the 4, that’s a great spot.”
The lone loss came in the North America Cup in late June at Mohawk Raceway. Wiggle It Jiggleit did the heavy lifting that night, setting the pace until the final strides when Wakizashi Hanover edged past for a 5-1 upset.
“You put that behind you,” Teague said. “I’m not saying it won’t happen again. You just hope it doesn’t happen too often in the major races. He raced great that night. He just got caught.”
They have met twice since then with Wiggle It Jiggleit prevailing in the Hempt Final at Pocono Downs and in last week’s Meadowlands Pace eliminations.
The colt showed a fresh dimension in the elimination with a dazzling closing kick in a 25 2/5 second final quarter with Montrell Teague, George’s son, in the sulky.
Usually a domineering force on or near the pace, Wiggle It Jiggleit dropped back to sixth before launching his bid.
“I don’t tell him how to drive,” Teague said. “He said he was going to take him back and my reply was ‘All the way to last?’ His intention was to race him off the pace.”
It didn’t matter. Wiggle It Jiggleit tracked the move by archrival Wakizashi Hanover before kicking clear to a length victory in 1:48 4/5.
That versatility, the ability to challenge the pace early or rally late, makes Wiggle It Jiggleit a handful for the competition.
“I feel comfortable any way he races, if front or from behind,” Teague said. “He’s fired every time he’s been in the (entry) box, regardless of the trip. He’s a very intelligent horse. I don’t worry too much about that.”
Teague is looking for his second Pace win, having taken the 2007 edition with Southwind Lynx. Only one feeling could top that: a victory Saturday with his son at the reins.
“I was fortunate enough to win it one time before, and I still get a buzz from that win,” Teague said. “Montrell has done me proud, and so has the horse. It would add that much more to the race if we happen to win it.”
Wakizashi Hanover and driver Tim Tetrick have the post position blues after landing the 9 as the 4-1 third choice on odds maker Darin Zoccali’s morning line.
“That didn’t go in my favor there,” Tetrick said of the post. “I wish mine could have drawn on the inside half of the gate. It is what it is. It’s just a starting spot.”
And hardly an ideal one, especially with Wiggle It Jiggleit in the 4 slot.
“He’s going to have the most options of anybody,” Tetrick said of the favorite. “Everyone is going to want to either follow him or have him in play. It’s his race to win or lose. I just wish we could have drawn in a little bit to have a fair shot at him.”
Tetrick is a four-time Pace winner, including the last two editions with Captaintreacherous (2013) and He’s Watching (2014).
Wakizashi Hanover, trained by Joann Looney-King and owned by the Tri County Stable from Truro, Nova Scotia, has six wins and a pair of seconds in nine starts this year.
The gelding didn’t have the easiest trip in last week’s eliminations. He wound up second-over behind long shot Lyons Levi Lewis, forcing Tetrick to move sooner than he wanted with Wiggle It Jiggleit right on his back.
“He followed me all the way and had a real good trip,” Tetrick said. “I had to come three deep early.”
In The Arsenal won the other Pace elimination, a career-best 1:49 1/5 victory with Brian Sears at the lines for trainer Kelvin Harrison.
He starts from post 6 as the 3-1 second choice.
This will be Harrison’s first Pace starter in 23 years.
“We’re very happy to be there,” Harrison said. “Hopefully things work out and we get a good trip. We’ve got a couple of tough contenders in there.”
Starting with Wiggle It Jiggleit.
“We’ve got one shot I believe to beat Wiggle It Jiggleit and that’s to be very close to him. We’ll start outside of him and go from there. We’ve had a tough grind of six weeks and we’ve come through these races extremely well.”
In The Arsenal was a yearling buy-back for White Birch Farms when the bidding topped out at $7,500.
He turned into a bargain, an 11-time winner with $751,693 in the bank.
Artspeak is the 6-1 fourth choice from post 3 with Scott Zeron driving for trainer Tony Alagna.
The colt hasn’t hit his best stride this year after a freshman campaign in which he won the Metro Pace, the Governor’s Cup and the Dan Patch Award as divisional champion.
He was fourth last week to In The Arsenal as the 1-2 favorite in his Pace elimination.
The other contenders all offer double-digit odds. Dealt A Winner is 20-1 while Lyons Levi Lewis, Dude’s The Man and Revenge Shark are 30-1.
Rock N’ Roll World and Badiou Hanover are 50-1.