Thirty-five industry insiders give their take on who will win the race of the year. As Ben Franklin himself said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”
It’s being billed as the race of the year and possibly the race of the decade. Tonight, 10 of the most talented older pacers in the game will do battle in the $500,000 Ben Franklin at Mohegan Sun Pocono (race 11, first race post time of 6:30 pm. (Eastern)) and the industry is buzzing. The race marks the first time Wiggle It Jiggleit and Always B Miki will square off and includes fellow titan Freaky Feet Pete.
So who will win? Harness Racing Update asked a number of industry insiders and is proud to present the picks from 35 of them.
T.J. BURKETT (Hoof Beats Executive Editor)
ALWAYS B MIKI closes in :27.1 from second-over to win in 1:46.1, edging Mel Mara from up the Pocono Pike with Wiggle It Jiggleit a mile-cutting third. 7-1-3-6.
DARIN ZOCCALI (TVG, Daily Racing Form)
My pick is FREAKY FEET PETE. I think he can leave aggressively, land a forward position and will own the best value of the big three.
MOIRA FANNING (Hambletonian Society)
WIGGLE IT JIGGLEIT. If it was raced on a straightaway I think Always B Miki’s pure speed would distance the field, but over the last two years we’ve seen WIJI do things no mortal horse can do, so he’s my pick.
CASIE COLEMAN (Trainer)
I’m going with ALWAYS B MIKI. He is a freak and drew badly, but can take a lot of air. If he is within four lengths at the head of lane they won’t beat him.
JOHN FIELDING (Owner – part-owner Sunfire Blue Chip)
SUNFIRE BLUE CHIP. There will be a crazy half-mile split that is the fastest in history and Sunfire will be in a great spot to pick up the pieces late in the mile.
ART ZUBROD (Brittany Farms)
ALWAYS B MIKI. I expect a fight for the lead with torrid fractions. Miki sits the battle out but wins the war.
JAY WOLF (Little Brown Jug publicity)
I think the race may be decided by Corey Callahan and Mel Mara. If they decide to leave hard from post 1, Wiggle It Jiggleit may be in trouble. Can I watch the first eighth before I predict a winner? If not, I’ll take WIGGLE IT JIGGLEIT, who grinds out a narrow win over Always B Miki. Shamballa is a closing third.
JEFF GURAL (Owner Meadowlands, Vernon and Tioga Downs)
I would like to see one of the four-year-olds win for obvious reasons, but I think off last week ALWAYS B MIKI is the best if that brutal trip didn’t take too much out of him.
KELLY SPENCER (Manager of Marketing-Grand River Raceway)
ALWAYS B MIKI. If last week’s performance didn’t rouse your emotions, check for a pulse.
MURRAY BROWN (Hanover Shoe Farms)
I think it will be a fantastic race. I think a lot will depend on how speed favoring or not the track is. If someone put a gun to my head and said that I had to pick one horse, it probably would be WIGGLE IT JIGGLEIT, not necessarily because he is the best, which he very well might be, but rather because I see him controlling the race and having the least distance to travel. I can’t wait.
STEVE ELLIOTT (Trainer)
After watching the elims I think anyone who watches this final will be the overall winner. I have been around a long time and can’t remember any final with this much horsepower. That said, my choice would be ALWAYS B MIKI on the wire with Wiggle It second and Frisky Feet Pete third.
TOM CHARTERS (President and CEO Hambletonian Society)
Looking at anything but the obvious, I pick STATE TREASURER after wicked fractions.
GREG BLANCHARD (Raceway Manager – Western Fair)
WIGGLE IT JIGGLEIT. I think his versatility and advantageous post will be the deciding factor in this incredible field.
PAUL DELEAN (Montreal Gazette)
I think the race sets up for FREAKY FEET PETE, with Wiggle It Jiggleit needing to commit early to keep his position and Always B Miki likely to be grinding away outside of him for most of the mile.
BOB BONI (Northwood Bloodstock – part-owner Always B Miki)
ALWAYS B MIKI for all of the obvious reasons in round one of what could be an historic season. I am very appreciative to be part of this event.
IAN FLEMING (General Manager Clinton Raceway)
WIGGLE IT JIGGLEIT wire to wire. If the race even half lives up to the hype it’s received, it will be a great race. The interest this group is getting is great for the game.
BOB MARKS (Author, formerly of Perretti Farms)
The trailer complicates things, but if there’s enough speed, ALWAYS B MIKI will be heard from late.
DAVE BROWER (Broadcaster, handicapper)
FREAKY FEET PETE looks like a much stronger horse this year, in my opinion, and his versatility and probable betting value in the Franklin could put him in the prime spot to upset despite post six in what will be a big test for driver Trace Tetrick.
JUDY DAVIS-WILSON (Delaware Standardbred Breeders’ Fund)
ALWAYS B MIKI has the brilliant speed and ability to carry it like the fabled FFA horses of the 1950s.
RON GURFEIN (Hall of Fame trainer)
WIGGLE IT JIGGLEIT. It’s a long year. No one is killing their horse to win tonight. Post wins the race.
MARK LOEWE (VP of Ohio Racing Operations, Penn National)
ALWAYS B MIKI. Looking for him to benefit from a hotly-contested pace.
BRETT REVINGTON (Director of Racing – Pompano Park)
ALWAYS B MIKI with State Treasurer second and Wiggle It Jiggleit third. Dave Miller will work out a solid trip while others battle up front into wicked fractions/
KEN MIDDLETON, JR. (Race caller – WEG)
WIGGLE IT JIGGLEIT
GARNET BARNSDALE (Handicapper, writer)
My choice is ALWAYS B MIKI who I believe is the fastest horse. Dave Miller will find a way to work out the winning trip for him from out there.
JASON SETTLEMOIR (COO and GM Meadowlands Racetrack)
WIGGLE IT JIGGLEIT off the post position.
LAUREN LEE (racing writer)
ALWAYS B MIKI. Jimmy Takter has been calling him the fastest horse since he began training him, and on Saturday I think he’ll make it official.
MIKE KIMELMAN, JR. (Breeder)
WIGGLE IT JIGGLEIT. He did not get punished last week and has the post advantage. It is a great group and any edge is a big deal. Harness racing is the big winner in the end.
SHANNON “SUGAR” DOYLE (Race caller – Western Fair)
ALWAYS B MIKI. He looks to be the fastest horse on the planet right now. He pulled away with such ease in his latest world record win.
DAWN LUPUL (Broadcaster – WEG)
WIGGLE IT JIGGLEIT has been a monster so far this year and Montrell Teague has been putting him where he needs to be to win.
BOB ROBERTS (racing writer)
ALWAYS B MIKI. He rarely draws a good post, yet continues to post big numbers and is pick from the seven hole.
RANDY WAPLES (Driver)
My pick is ALWAYS B MIKI, but you could just as easily throw a dart. What a field.
KIM RINKER (Ohio Sires Stakes administrator)
WIGGLE IT JIGGLEIT has the inside advantage over his rivals and other elim winners and appears to be as solid as ever — a sure winner once again.
CHRIS LOMON (Racing writer)
ALWAYS B MIKI. If Miller can get the lifetime winner of 22 races in prime position early, expect the duo to be flying late to take all the spoils.
BILL O’DONNELL (Hall of Fame driver)
I like ALWAYS B MIKI. Miki is a five-year-old versus three very good four-year-olds this early in the year.
TOM PEDULLA (Racing writer)
WIGGLE IT JIGGLEIT continues to roll with his fifth consecutive victory.