by Lou Monaco for the Hambletonian Society
Always a champion.
The much-anticipated showdown between the top two harness horses in the world lived up to the hype as Always B Miki forged ahead by three-quarters of a length to upend 2015 Horse of the Year Wiggle It Jiggleit to capture his second straight $421,000 Breeders Crown Open Pace on Friday (Oct. 28) at The Meadowlands.
The 3-5 favorite Always B Miki, driven by David Miller and trained by Jimmy Takter, paid $3.20.
Wiggle It Jiggleit stormed to the lead right from the gate and led throughout with Always B Miki right at his heels in second place every step of the way until surging ahead to take the lead right at the wire. Wiggle It Jiggleit, with Montrell Teague aboard the 6-5 second choice, finished second and Shamballa, with Scott Zeron aboard, was third.
Always B Miki (Always A Virgin-Artstopper) won in fractions of :27.1, :55.1, 1:22.1, and a finishing time of 1:49. He is owned by Bluewood Stable, Roll The Dice Stable and Christina Takter.
“We saw two great, great horses, fighting side by side down the stretch. To me, it was one of the better races, maybe the best ever I had a horse participate in and it was so exciting to see it,” said Takter, who won his 28th Breeders Crown race to date. “When he dug in that little extra, that’s what a champion has. I am so proud of this horse and I’m speechless — what a horse. Two weeks from now (will be his last start in the TVG) and I hope everyone will come back. Everybody should see it, it’s going to be his last appearance here in the TVG. So wonderful to do this on his home track on a cold night like this. Fantastic feeling.”
“Me and Miki have been trading wins and losses back and forth all season,” said Teague, in just his second start in a Breeders Crown race. “One race isn’t going to deter me, I was happy with my horse, it was a big effort. There was a big headwind out there today and the horse got on the left line a little bit but from having all those difficult problems he still put in a game effort.”
Wiggle It Jiggleit and Always B Miki have met eight times this year with Always B Miki now leading the head-to-head matchup at 4-3. They both lost to Shamballa in the U.S. Pacing Championship in August.
“I couldn’t be happier with him, he’s a tough horse,” said driver David Miller of Always B Miki. “He shows up and he was determined to get his head in front there.”
Since returning to action last fall, Always B Miki has won 15 of 21 races, totaling 29 for his career and became the first horse to win the Open Pace in consecutive years since Bettor Sweet in 2011-12. Always B Miki’s other wins this year include the Ben Franklin Pace, William Haughton Memorial, Jim Ewart Memorial, and Hoosier Pacing Derby.
Nineteen days ago, Always B Miki paced the fastest mile in harness racing history at Lexington’s Red Mile, winning the Allerage Farms Open Pace in 1:46, eclipsing Cambest’s mark of 1:46.1, which was set in a time trial at Springfield, Ill., in 1993. No horse had ever paced faster than 1:46.4 in a race.
“We stepped out of there good and my horse was game on the front,” added Teague. “When I went around the last turn he was ready to roll. I tried that instead of trying to follow him. Mine is better off the pace, but I wanted to try something different. And the long stretch got me beat. Putting him on the front, the wind is really heavy coming down the lane. But he was out the same way I was. He was out with me in the wind, he wasn’t hiding behind me where I was taking all the wind, so it was even. No excuses.
“I think it would be boring racing if we didn’t have these two, Miki and mine. We’ve both got one more crack at each other at the TVG final, so I’m excited. I’d rather race against him than be a layover and race against myself. I like the racing. I’m glad (Wiggle It Jiggleit) is a gelding so I get to keep racing him.”