Triumphant Return

Wiggle It Jiggleit competes again after nearly three years on the sidelines

story by Charlene Sharpe

In 2016, Wiggle It Jiggleit earned more than $1.7 million, winning 15 races against the top pacers in the nation. After a close second-place finish to Always B Miki in the $421,000 Breeders Crown Open Pace final on Oct. 28, 2016, fans eagerly awaited his return to the racetrack.

One year turned into two. Two turned into three. Nevertheless, when Wiggle It Jiggleit was entered to qualify in August 2019, fans jumped right back on the bandwagon to cheer on the then 7-year-old.

“I was always on the inside looking out, but the response from other people still surprises me,” said co-owner George Teague Jr. “I’ve been fortunate with horses like Rainbow Blue and Lather Up, but they never inquired as much about them. They gravitate to him.”

By Mr Wiggles and out of the Jenna’s Beach Boy mare, Mozzi Hanover, Wiggle It Jiggleit is trained by Clyde Francis and driven by Teague’s son, Montrell. The gelding raced just once as a 2-year-old, winning impressively in 1:51.2 at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono.

The following year, however, is when Wiggle It Jiggleit really caught the public eye. As a sophomore, the pacer won 22 of 26 starts, earning $2.1 million and taking a mark of 1:47.4 in the $706,000 Meadowlands Pace. He ended the season as the 2015 Dan Patch Horse of the Year, Pacer of the Year and 3-Year-Old Pacing Colt and Gelding of the Year.

Wiggle It Jiggleit continued to roll in his 4-year-old campaign. He crossed the wire first 15 times in 2016 with wins in the $150,000 Dayton Pacing Derby, the $150,000 Bobby Quillen Memorial Invitational, the $250,000 Graduate Series final, the $474,320 Canadian Pacing Derby final, the $325,000 Dan Patch Invitational and the $260,000 Joe Gerrity Jr. Memorial.

Although he was honored as Canada’s top older pacer of the year, Wiggle It Jiggleit lost that year’s Dan Patch Award to his great rival, Always B Miki. Wiggle It Jiggleit’s high cruising speed, his antics in the winner’s circle and his sheer ability made that season a pleasure to witness, as the two great horses traded blows all year.

“I think he grew a fan base on his toughness and his character,” Teague said. “For him to carry on for two years like he did, right there with Always B Miki, people were really impressed by him, not just me.”

After being plagued by back issues in 2017, Wiggle It Jiggleit was trained down late in the year and was expected to qualify in January 2018.

Teague remembers his disappointment when he walked into the barn only to find a new injury the day after the pacer trained in 1:54. Described only as a leg issue, Teague said the injury was enough to shut Wiggle It Jiggleit down for months.

“He never healed up very fast,” he said. He refused, however, to rush the horse.

“If a horse is not ready to race, he’s not ready to race,” he said. “I didn’t want him to go out there and one day limp off the racetrack.”

While Teague never meant for the horse to go three years between starts, he also wanted to make sure that the Wiggle It Jiggleit who returned to the track was the same horse that left it in 2016.

“I always believed he could make it back,” he said.

The pacer won his first qualifier on Aug. 20, 2019, in 1:53.4. The gelding was then third, had another win, and a second in three more qualifiers.

“I wanted to build back up to it,” Teague said. “It just takes so long to get back to where he was.” By November, Wiggle It Jiggleit had raced twice in 2019, finishing second at the Delaware (Ohio) County Fairgrounds on Sept. 19 and third in the Open at Harrington Raceway on Sept. 30. He also won a qualifier on Nov. 13 at Dover Downs.

Teague said he was happy with the horse’s performance, but not overjoyed. In the days following his third-place finish, the pacer tied up while jogging.

“We checked his blood and it looks like he’s been tying up all along [in 2019],” Teague said. “He’s never been a tie-up horse in his life.”

Teague made some diet and exercise adjustments to the gelding’s routine and hopes to have the problem under control.

“I do think he’ll make it back close to where he was,” he said, but acknowledged that he wouldn’t continue to campaign Wiggle It Jiggleit if the pacer wasn’t performing at a high level.

“I’m not going to pound him into the ground. I don’t see myself racing him in non-winners of $6,000 at Dover. The horse has done way too much to go to that level. It wouldn’t do him justice.”

Charlene Sharpe is a freelance writer living in Delaware. To comment on this story, email us at readerforum@ustrotting.com.

 

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