After logging nearly 14,000 miles this year traveling to eight states or provinces over seven months and 21 starts, Wiggle It Jiggleit returned to Delaware, Ohio to meet his fans — and he wasn’t even racing.
by Dave Briggs
The crowd was building around Wiggle It Jiggleit’s stall in the Jug Barn Thursday morning and trainer Clyde Francis was quietly standing back and taking in the scene. As fan after fan stepped into the stall to pose for a photo with the superstar pacer, a hint of a satisfied smile formed beneath the trainer’s moustache.
The People’s Horse was in the people’s place a year after his most stirring victory.
Truth is, Wiggle It Jiggleit’s toe-to-toe slugfest with Lost For Words in the deciding heat of the 2015 Jug may be the most stirring victory in the history of the game.
For Francis, it’s not debatable.
“How can you top it? I still watch it. I could be lying in bed and I’ll pull my phone up and watch the race,” he said, that hint of a smile morphing into a sweet grin.
A black and red harness bag with the Clyde Francis Stable stitched into it hung beside the stall. The symbolism was not lost on the soft-spoken 59-year-old horseman who has long worked as an assistant trainer to George Teague, Jr., who owns Wiggle It Jiggleit with the Teague Racing Partnership LLC. Last year, as part of his desire to down-size a stable that once numbered 120 horses — “Back then we went dark to dark, started in the dark and finished in the dark,” Francis said — Teague turned the stable over to Francis.
“It means a lot. I don’t think you’ll find anyone else who would do something like that, put you down to train all the horses. That’s bold as hell,” Francis said, the appreciation clear in his eyes. The move was even more impressive considering Teague knew full-well what he was sitting on with the son of Mr Wiggles out of Mozzi Hanover.
“Even before (Wiggle It Jiggleit) started racing, George said, ‘You’ll be known as the trainer of one of the best horses ever,’” Francis said.
Francis has worked for it. Just this year alone, he and Wiggle It Jiggleit’s caretaker Big Mike Taylor have logged nearly 14,000 miles, traveling from their base at Harrington Raceway in Delaware to eight states or provinces over seven months and 21 starts. Big track, small track and everything in between, Wiggle It Jiggleit will take on all comers, which is particularly impressive considering he’s a four-year-old taking on older horses.
“Horses don’t usually hold up like that these days. He’s week in and week out. We started him last year in January and everybody was saying then, ‘He won’t be around in the summer.’ But we managed him well. We raced early and then gave him time off to freshen him back up and when the big races started he was ready to go,” Francis said of the $3.6 million-winning gelding voted 2015 Horse of the Year.
“When you’ve got a horse like this, it gives you the energy to keep going,” Francis said.
Francis said all those miles seem like a breeze compared to all the years he, “shipped all over the place and never had anything that ever compared to (Wiggle It Jiggleit).”
Even better, the Wiggle It Jiggleit crew has taken the people along for the ride, literally. The connections donated a ride behind him to lead this year’s Jug post parade that attracted a winning bid from Breana Carsey of MJB Got Faith fame (HRU story Aug. 26, 2016) in support of New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program.
“He’s been a lot of fun. I’ve been there with George (Teague) back to Rainbow Blue. I remember when she came along. Most people would say you get a horse like Blue or Total Truth or Western Ace, that’s the horse of a lifetime and then his guy comes along,” Francis said. “You would’ve thought with some of the other ones that that would have been ‘it’, but this dude comes along and I’ve never seen a horse like it.”
Judging from the lineup waiting to see Wiggle It Jiggleit, neither have his people.