from U.S. Harness Writers Association
Team Teague, a group of horsepeople based in Harrington, Del., who have been masterful in both their care and campaigning of the charismatic $3.9 million-winning pacer Wiggle It Jiggleit over the last two years, has won the top honor that the United States Harness Writers Association solely votes on — the Stan Bergstein Proximity Award, “presented annually to those who have made outstanding contributions to harness racing.”
The team captain is of course owner/trainer George Teague Jr., defending Owner of the Year, through whom the major decisions are made. But George would be the first to credit the many others who have been integral parts of the success of Wiggle It Jiggleit, 2015 Horse of the Year and second in this year’s voting, and indeed all the way back to 2004 Horse of the Year Rainbow Blue and beyond.
These folks would include George’s sister Brenda, his right-hand man for many years and an outstanding horsewoman in her own right; his stable’s owners, many of them from his home base of Delaware; and Jim Bernstein, a former horseman turned successful businessman, who helps keep Team Teague on sound financial footing.
There is also George’s son Montrell, last year’s Rising Star Award winner, who has shown both ability and cool in the sulky well beyond his 25 years, and who in his intelligence, horsemanship, and enthusiasm has become as public a standard bearer of Team Teague as anybody.
In addition, there is the veteran Clyde Francis, who oversees the day-to-day care of Wiggle It Jiggleit and “Big Mike” Taylor, honored as 2015’s Caretaker of the Year, who has developed a rapport with his charge while also keeping his respect. Many a chaotic winner’s circle, definitely not Wiggle It Jiggleit’s favorite place to go, has been avoided by Mike’s patient, yet firm handling of the horse just after the races.
Add in other stable employees and front office workers, and you have a group of individuals who have all had a part in the success of a horse who has commanded a major portion of the harness spotlight for two full seasons now.
Team Teague has indeed made “an outstanding contribution” to the sulky sport.
George Teague Jr. named as USHWA’s Good Guy
Besides voting to put Team Teague on the final ballot for the prestigious Bergstein Proximity Award (and then picking them to win the award), George Teague Jr. himself was selected by the chapters of USHWA for individual recognition as the organization’s Good Guy Award winner, for outstanding cooperation with the media and in helping to showcase the sport.
George was voted the Good Guy Award winner as well, making him the first two-time winner of the Good Guy Award in the 53-year history of the honor (he also won in 2004, Rainbow Blue’s Horse of the Year campaign).
One example given of George’s desire to serve and better harness racing came when he was asked to bring Wiggle It Jiggleit, last year’s Little Brown Jug winner, to the Delaware, Ohio, Fair to make an appearance this season — in the middle of a grueling racing campaign.
But Teague oversaw the preparations to get the horse to central Ohio for Jug Day, and Wiggle It Jiggleit led the post parade for the Triple Crown pacing event.
An irony here: Wiggle It Jiggleit won the 2015 Jug with a stirring stretch surge that edged out Lost For Words — who was trained by Brian Brown, the Delaware, Ohio-based conditioner who finished second to Teague in this year’s Good Guy voting!
Team Teague and George Teague Jr. will be honored at the Night Of Champions, the Dan Patch Awards Banquet Presented by Hoosier Park, which will take place on Sunday (Feb. 26) at the Planet Hollywood hotel/casino in Las Vegas. Information about the banquet and the entire weekend, which will also contain the annual meetings of USHWA, can be found on the communicators’ website, www.ushwa.org, including links for making hotel reservations at special rates at Planet Hollywood; banquet tickets; and congratulatory or acknowledgment ads in the keepsake Souvenir Banquet Journal, annually one of the best chronicles of a year in North American harness racing.