by Ken Weingartner
Jimmy Takter needs few words to sum up tonight’s Breeders Crown Open Pace at the Meadowlands, which features a continuation of the rivalry between Takter’s Always B Miki and George Teague Jr.’s Wiggle It Jiggleit.
“This,” Takter says, “is what it’s all about.”
Wiggle It Jiggleit is the No. 1-ranked horse in harness racing’s current Top 10 poll. Always B Miki is No. 2.
Wiggle It Jiggleit has earned more money than any pacer in history prior to the age of 5. Always B Miki is the fastest horse in harness racing history.
Wiggle It Jiggleit is the defending Horse of the Year. Always B Miki is the defending Breeders Crown champion.
Yeah, this is what it’s all about.
Wiggle It Jiggleit and Always B Miki have met seven times this year. Each has won three of the encounters. The only other horse to win a race involving both Wiggle It Jiggleit and Always B Miki is Shamballa, who also is in the Open Pace.
“It’s exciting,” Takter said. “Win, lose or draw it’s going to be a great race. It’s great horses meeting up. And great horses can get beat. That’s the way it is.”
When it comes to defining Always B Miki’s place in harness racing history, Takter knows exactly where he would put the 5-year-old stallion.
“I think he’s the greatest pacer to ever walk on this earth,” Takter said. “I really do. If everything would have been his way, could you imagine how much even better he could have been? He’s a great, great horse.”
On Oct. 9 at Lexington’s Red Mile, Always B Miki paced the fastest mile in harness racing history, winning the Allerage Farms Open Pace in 1:46. The time eclipsed 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.
Always B Miki, who was twice sidelined by injuries that forced him to miss nearly a year of action, is the 6-5 morning line favorite in the Open Pace and will start from post four with driver David Miller. The event is one of four Breeders Crown races at the Meadowlands on Friday, with an additional eight Breeders Crown races Saturday at The Big M.
Since returning to action last fall, Always B Miki has won 14 of 20 races and finished second five times. He will try to become the first horse to win the Open Pace in consecutive years since Bettor Sweet in 2011-12. Always B Miki’s wins this year include the Ben Franklin Pace, William Haughton Memorial, Jim Ewart Memorial, and Hoosier Pacing Derby.
In addition to becoming the fastest horse in history, Always B Miki shares the record of 1:47 for the fastest mile by a horse on a five-eighths-mile track. Always B Miki has paced 1:47 on a five-eighths oval on three occasions.
Wiggle It Jiggleit, a 4-year-old gelding, has won 38 of 50 career races and earned $3.81 million. Starting from post seven with driver Montrell Teague, he is 8-5. His wins this year include the Canadian Pacing Derby, Dan Patch Invitational, Joe Gerrity Jr. Memorial, Dorothy Mullin Invitational, and Battle of Lake Erie.
“I’m very happy for George,” said Takter, who shares the same birthday, Sept. 29, as Teague. “He’s done a wonderful job with that horse and they’ve done great for the sport promoting it. They’re great people and do a lot for the sport.”
Takter leads all trainers in Breeders Crown trophies, with 27. He has 17 horses entered in this year’s Breeders Crown finals, tied with Ron Burke for the most among all trainers.
Among Takter’s 17 Breeders Crown finalists are three returning champions from last year: Always B Miki, 3-year-old female trotter All The Time, and 3-year-old female pacer Pure Country.
Last year, Takter set a Breeders Crown record with six wins.
“It was a magic night,” Takter said. “Things have got to go your way so good. It worked once in my life like that and I’m very grateful to have been involved in it. I don’t ask for it again.”
In addition to Always B Miki, Takter has morning line favorites on Saturday with All The Time, Pure Country, Ariana G (2-year-old filly trot), Idyllic Beach (2-year-old filly pace), and Western Fame (3-year-old male pace). Bar Hopping is the second choice behind Trotting Triple Crown winner Marion Marauder in the 3-year-old male trot.
Ariana G is one of three Takter horses in the 2-year-old filly trot. She is joined by elimination winner Thats All Moni and Princess Aurora. Chezatter was the other elimination winner.
“Ariana G was a little too grabby in her elimination,” Takter said. “She’s definitely the best 2-year-old filly out there, but she’s got to overcome that. She can’t be too grabby like that. I trained her this week and she felt very good. We did a couple of (equipment) changes and opened her up and added some things to try to help her relax. I think it’s her race to lose. But it’s a very good group of trotting fillies.
“I like all three of mine. Thats All Moni was fantastic first-up last week. She could sneak around and maybe surprise. She’s got a good quick brush. Princess Aurora got post 10, which was unfortunate because she raced awesome in her elimination. She probably trotted in :55 the last half. She’s a very good filly, a little sleeper there.”
All The Time, who was sidelined for nearly two months because of colic surgery following her victory in the Hambletonian Oaks, won her Breeders Crown elimination. The other elim was won by last year’s Dan Patch Award winner Broadway Donna.
“It almost brought tears to my eyes to see her do what she did,” Takter said about All The Time’s win. “When I started her back after I got clearance from the veterinarian she didn’t look good physically because she lost a lot of muscle tone. It’s just amazing how fast she came back. She looked great and she finished strong. I think she is going to be very close.
“I thought Broadway Donna raced really good from the 10 hole (in her elimination). All The Time, she’s just a champion. If she wins this one it’s going to be a heck of a story. She’s just a fantastic horse.”
Bar Hopping is one of three Takter trainees in the 3-year-old male trot, along with Love Matters and Lagerfeld. Bar Hopping and Sutton won last week’s eliminations. It was Bar Hopping’s fourth win in his last five starts. His only setback was a third-place finish behind Marion Marauder and Southwind Frank in the Kentucky Futurity.
“I thought Bar Hopping was maybe Saturday’s best performance, the way he looked down the stretch, he just opened up like a great horse,” Takter said. “When he goes by horses, he goes by them big. But sometimes he kind of hesitates and just hangs there.
“He didn’t have a good race in the Futurity. I thought Tim (driver Tetrick) gave him a perfect trip and he should have won that race. I was very disappointed with that race, but I was very proud of him in the Breeders Crown elimination. We’ve got to do it in the big time, but I consider him a good shot. He’s going to be a player.”
On Friday night, Takter will send two-time Breeders Crown champion Shake It Cerry into the Breeders Crown Mare Trot. It is expected to be the final start of her career. She has won 29 of 60 lifetime races and earned $2.75 million. She was Trotter of the Year in 2014.
“This most likely will be her last race,” Takter said. “She’s starting to get a little tired. She had a wonderful career. What a wonderful horse she’s been for us.”
Takter’s remaining Breeders Crown starters are Sir John F (2-year-old male trot), Ocean Colony and Blood Line (2-year-old male pace), Katie Said (Mare Pace) and Lyons Snyder (3-year-old male pace).
For Friday’s complete Meadowlands/Breeders Crown card, click here.
For Saturday’s complete Meadowlands/Breeders Crown card, click here.
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