Hoosier Park’s long stretch proved tough for front-runner Always B Miki who fell to rival Wiggle It Jiggleit in the $325,000 Dan Patch Stakes Friday night in Indiana featuring another battle of the Big Three.
by James Platz
The 23rd edition of the Dan Patch Stakes at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino had the makings of a show stopper on paper, but when the gate folded on the $325,000 contest for the sport’s best free-for-all pacers, it delivered. In a race that featured six millionaires and six world champions, it was Horse of the Year Wiggle It Jiggleit that prevailed in 1:49.1. The win came at the expense of Always B Miki, who battled the winner gamely in the stretch but came up short, while Shamballa and All Bets Off dead-heated for third.
Throughout the Dan Patch undercard many of the leaders turning for home failed to reach the winner’s circle. Credit Hoosier Park’s long stretch and the fact that the front end was not holding up, and that proved foreshadowing in the track’s signature race. Drawing the rail in the night’s 12th race, Wiggle It Jiggleit and Montrell Teague were the first to the front through a :27 opening quarter.
“The best thing about the rail is you can look over and see who’s going to come out of there,” Montrell Teague said of the early going with his triple millionaire. “Nobody came out of there, so I just took advantage of the rail. With nobody leaving, it worked out pretty good this time.”
As racing fans are accustomed to seeing, the speedy Always B Miki would find his way to the top on the backside, brushing to the lead from his early position in fourth to provide WIJI a pocket seat as the field raced to a :54.4 half. While the slight favorite called the shots on the front, Mel Mara was the first to move from the back for Corey Callahan, flushing Freaky Feet Pete from third. In a move reminiscent of the U.S. Pacing Championships one week ago, Trace Tetrick and Freaky Feet Pete took the fight to Always B Miki in the turn, reaching three quarters in 1:22.4.
Last week Teague and his Clyde Francis-trained champion shook loose late to finish second to Shamballa. This time, he used Hoosier Park’s passing lane to his advantage, getting by the leader in deep stretch to collect another big win over the track’s seven-eighths mile configuration. Shamballa and Scott Zeron were once again flying late down the center of the track, but this time they had to settle for third with All Bets Off, driven by Ricky Macomber Jr., after judges could not separate them in the photo.
“Pete propped out a little bit and went back in. I thought maybe I should beat him out,” Teague explained of opting to sit in the turn. “But then I remembered they had the passing lane. My horse, wherever he has an opening, he’s going to go.”
And go he did, up the inside and on to his 11th win in 17 seasonal starts and 34th victory in 44 career trips behind the gate. Owned by George Teague Jr. and Teague Racing Partnership LLC, Wiggle It Jiggle It added another $158,000 to his seasonal bankroll, which surpassed $1 million with the latest triumph.
This time last year, Wiggle It Jiggleit found himself cutting most of the miles, and when he suffered his four defeats, it was often after doing most of the work. Now, his driver noted the difference in slugging it out in the free-for-all ranks and the opportunity for a trip in an event like the Dan Patch.
“Last year I was the main three-year-old, so I didn’t feel confident about getting a trip out of someone else,” he noted. “But now that I’ve got Pete and Miki and Shamballa, I think I’ve got a little wiggle room that I can actually manage him a little bit better, maybe off the pace or the two hole.”
That’s important during a long season where the gelding will continue to square off against the best in the toughest division in harness racing and the miles will take their toll. Just as he did Saturday at Hoosier Park, with each start, and each victory, the Mr Wiggles—Mozzi Hanover gelding shows why he is among the greats. In one of the deepest fields in Dan Patch history, Wiggle It Jiggleit prevailed, leaving George Teague Jr. to remember races that got away last year at Hoosier Park.
“It’s a long stretch, man. We’ve gotten whipped on this stretch a couple of times. It’s a long stretch. The front is not always where you want to be.” George Teague Jr. said, referring to two defeats at the hands of Freaky Feet Pete in 2015. “These horses, four or five of them are going to knock heads on any given night and take turns.”
The owner praised his horse, and talked of the pacer’s place among the best to ever wear a bridle.
“He’s a great horse. Great horses do great things,” Teague Jr. said. “He travels everywhere, he goes on any size racetrack. He doesn’t pick his spots. They can talk about all the great ones before, that’s what’s going to separate him from all the other ones. Everybody else wants to pick their spots, show up here, draw the eight hole and decide we’re not racing. If he draws the eight hole on a half-mile track, he’s racing. He races every start. That’s the difference. If they want to label themselves great, they’ve got to show up and race all of them.”
Wiggle It Jiggleit and his connections will now take their road show north of the border. The pacer is slated to compete Sun., Aug. 21 in the $200,000 Prix D’Ete Grand Circuit Stake at Hippodrome 3R. At Trois-Rivieres the multiple world champion will again look to make history, just as he did at Hoosier Park.