by Bob Heyden
Here’s how Wiggle It Jiggleit’s lifetime record of 38 wins in 51 starts compares to the career numbers of some of the all time greats:
Tarport Hap was 55-for-94 from 1974-1977.
Cardigan Bay was 80-for-154 and the first horse to $1 million (September of 1968).
Bret Hanover was 62-for-68 and the first to win three straight Horse of the Year titles (1964-1966)
Cam Fella was 61-for-80 (and the last to win back-to-back HOY titles as a pacer (1982-1983)
Matts Scooter was 37-for-61 (HOY at four in 1989 and the runnerup the year prior to Mack Lobell)
First time in 64 years
The last time, prior to 2016, that the top three in the Horse of the Year balloting were all older horses was 64 years ago.
In 1952, Good Time, age six, was the HOY over four-year-old Sharp Note and five-year-old Stars Pride.
This year, five-year-old Always B Miki defeated four-year-old Wiggle It Jiggleit and four-year-old Hannelore Hanover.
Does this add up?
In 1986, Forrest Skipper and Jate Lobell were a combined 31-for-31 and went 1-2 in the HOY balloting, respectively.
Forrest Skipper banked $637,675 and Jate Lobell $585,804 for a combined $1,223,479.
That total was $183,784 LESS than the earnings of record-setting Redskin that same year, who banked $1,407,263, a freshman record that still stands 30 years later.
Remembering Thomas Fay
Thirty-five years ago, Thomas Fay of New Hampshire was the Claiming King.
He made the sport’s first $100,000 claim and a handful of others:
March 16, 1979 — $100,000 Taurus Romeo
March 14, 1981 — $100,000 Sure Show
May 13, 1980 — $93,750 Farbro Wave
April 25, 1981 — $85,000 Master Regal N
February 17, 1979 — $65,000 Seatrain
Pelling’s roots on east coast
Brett Pelling’s return to North America evoked memories of his move to New Jersey in 1988. His foundation horses were both mares, both seven years old, both bred in New Zealand and both had California ownership.
In 1988, Pelling campaigned Kiwi River N (27 13-3-2 $161,180) for Colross Racing Inc., Michael Schwartz and Don Gressman of California.
Lockie Vance was just three-for-12 in 1988 and then won four of her first five in 1989 — all at the Meadowlands — en route to a strong season. She was a daughter of Vance Hanover. Kiwi River N was a daughter of Knowing Bret.
White Ruffles, another mare, was the first true star in the Pelling outfit from 1990 through 19.
Q. On Hambletonian Day in 1983, the sport’s first million-dollar trotting event was won by Duenna. The fastest mile of the day belonged to Its Fritz at 1:52.3 and the third fastest belonged to Cam Fella at 1:53.2. Who was in the middle with the second fastest mile of the day, and it came in the richest ever running of this stake?
A. Allwin Steady and Bill O’Donnell won the $537,000 New Jersey Classic in 1:53 for trainer Bill Robinson.
Times are, indeed, changing
The same drivers dominate at certain tracks some nights and it looks like no more than 14-15 drivers are needed for a full card. Contrast that to 1981 at the Meadowlands, when — get this —598 drivers had at least one start during the meet.
Q. Courageous Lady was the first female to compete in a Meadowlands Pace final (sixth in 1978) and was one of the greatest pacing fillies/mares of all time. She concurrently held both the three- and four-year-old female pacing mark at the Meadowlands in 1979, both in 1:55.2 and both with Lew Williams. Who was her trainer at the end of her career?
A. Ted Wing.
Carl Lecause won the first Meadowlands Pace in 1977 with Escort, but few people remember the first horse he drove at the Meadowlands on opening night in 1976.
Lecause was sixth in the third that night with Howie Mann.
Youth will be served
Last Friday, 22-year-old Drew Monti and 23-year-old Joe Bongiorno combined to win six of the 13 races on the Meadowlands card. This coming just a couple of months after the announcement that the MVPs of baseball’s American and National leagues are Mike Trout, 25, and Kris Bryant, 24.