by Kim French
The clubhouse was sold out seven days ago, the denizens of the apron stood shoulder-to-shoulder despite the deluge the area had withstood 14 of the last 24 hours and before the first race went off on the card at Hollywood Gaming at Dayton Raceway on Friday (Sept. 30) all people could discuss was how fortunate they were to witness live the most elite equine athletes on the continent.
In fact, one young lady explained to her young son just how significant the upcoming $150,000 Dayton Pacing Derby truly was.
“You need to remember this night,” she said. “This is the time you will see the greatest horses in the world race with your own eyes. Don’t you want to see Wiggle It Jiggleit in person?”
So did thousands of others at the Ohio oval and Wiggle It Jiggleit repaid their reverence and homage with a dazzling photo finish triumph in a track record 1:49.1 by a head over Always B Miki. The public’s sentimental selection, Freaky Fete Pete, checked in 1-3/4 lengths behind in third.
Co-owner George Teague Jr. summed up the electrifying performance in which Wiggle It Jiggle reversed a similar loss at Scioto Downs to the same rival succinctly.
“He delivers,” he said.
As the crowd chanted his name, Wiggle It Jiggleit and pilot Montrell Teague prepared to leave from post position five. The second choice at odds of 6-5, the defending Horse of the Year was unhurried at the start and settled into fourth behind race leader Luck Be Withyou (Eric Goodell), third selection Freaky Feet Pete (Trace Tetrick) and even money favorite Always B Miki (David Miller).
After establishing fractions of :26.2 and :54.4 in their first tour around the track, Miller decided he had waited long enough and sent Always B Miki first-over. Teague immediately grasped the golden opportunity for live cover and pulled Wiggle It Jiggleit from his position to follow Always B Miki’s assault on the top two.
After ranging alongside Luck Be Withyou momentarily, Always B Miki took control after three-quarters in 1:22.1 with Wiggle It Jiggleit right on his flank. This locked Freaky Feet Pete in along the rail and shuffled him to fourth with Luck Be Withyou in second and Wiggle It Jiggleit in third as the drive for the wire ensued at the top of the homestretch.
As Always B Miki appeared poised to pull ahead and never relinquish the lead, Wiggle It Jiggleit loomed menacingly on the outside. Those two once again waged war through the length of the homestretch and at the finish line, and left the exhilarated crowd puzzling over which horse captured the battle.
Within minutes, that seemed much more like hours, Wiggle It Jiggleit was declared the victor and the fans demonstrated their appreciation for his monstrous effort with a round of cheers that drowned out any other sound.
“I always felt like I was in a good position,” driver Montrell Teague said in the winner’s circle. “I liked where Miki was and felt very comfortable all the way around the track. I just feel very fortunate to have been associated with this horse at such a young age and to have this kind of opportunity. He has already accomplished so much and done so many things. All I can hope for is that he continues to go on and do these things.
“He’s not really a people horse. But I do think he really likes hearing the crowd cheer for him.”
Conditioned by Clyde Francis, Wiggle It Jiggleit paid $4.40 to win, while Always B Miki provided $2.20 to his supporters. The 4-year-old gelding has now amassed a staggering $3.68 million lifetime and posted his 37th win from 49 career trips to the post for owners George Teague Jr. Inc. and Teague Racing Partnership.
The exacta paid $6.60 and the trifecta, rounded out by Freaky Feet Pete, who once again closed on the inside, paid $3.00.
One race prior to yet another fantastic showdown between Always B Miki and Wiggle It Jiggleit, Obrigado made his own strong statement by emphatically capturing the $160,000 Dayton Trotting Derby for conditioner and co-owner Paul Kelley.
With regular reinsman Mark MacDonald holding the lines, the public’s second wagering selection (8-5) behind only Shake It Cerry, commenced trotting from post position five and swiftly settled into second place behind Homicide Hunter (Eric Goodell).
As Homicide Hunter set all the fractions heading into the stretch, clicking off panels of :26.3, :56.2 and 1:24.2, Obrigado was content to remain in the pocket for the entire journey.
As Wind Of The North (Matt Kakaley) made his first-over bid heading into the lane, Obrigado was briefly overtaken, but that is when MacDonald pushed the button. At that juncture, the rest of the field was only competing for second place as the gelding glided to the wire to stop the clock in 1:53.2.
Centurion ATM (Aaron Merriman) closed from the clouds to finish second, 2-1/4 lengths behind the winner, while Wind Of The North was relegated to third after his early move.
Also owned by SRF Stable, Linwood Higgins and Stable 45, Obrigado increased his bankroll to $1.36 million with his 40th lifetime win.
His connections were obviously overjoyed with the victory, but were also relieved as the horse did not have the easiest of transport experiences on his way from Lexington, Ky., due to the heavy rains.
“It was some kind of trip,” Kelley said. “But this horse is so intelligent and easy on himself. In fact, he is almost lazy and is kind of lazy training. He knows when it is time to race though. I think it’s a shame he did not get invited to the International Trot at Yonkers, because I think he would have won. We will take him back to Lexington, put him in the Allerage and then race on the undercard at Yonkers on International Trot night. From there we will just see what happens.”
With one of the largest crowds in its three-year history, if not the largest ever, Dayton Raceway tallied an all-time high in handle with $416,458 wagered on the evening’s card.