11/02/2016 5:07PM

Bergman: Conclusions from the Breeders Crown Finals

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Nikki Sherman
Always B Miki (4) edged past Wiggle It Jiggleit (7) to win the Breeders Crown.

The Breeders Crown final for older pacers had enough horses entered to generate an action-packed race. Yet as this season winds down, we have found out clearly that only two really matter. Drivers and trainers of the “also-rans” are more than content to sit back and watch the titans do battle with a view ahead at greatness and the desire to fight for the scraps of third, fourth and fifth money.

What Always B Miki’s victory over Wiggle It Jiggleit this past Friday proved to most is the identity of the best horse. There’s no shame in losing but there’s still something about winning that makes all of the difference.

“I thought we were beat,” said Jimmy Takter on Saturday after 24 hours had set in and he’d had a chance to absorb everything.

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“They were getting kind of close with Wiggle It Jiggleit coming out. But Miki is just amazing with the way he digs in,” said Takter.

Takter, in hindsight, suggested, “Maybe Dave (driver Miller) should have pulled him sooner.”

There was no surprise in Miller’s reaction. “When I got after him he just put his head down and went,” Miller said.

The wind may have played a factor on Friday but it’s impossible to say if it favored either the pacemaker or the pocket sitter. The reality was that Wiggle It Jiggleit had the advantage from the outset and managed the fractions as Montrell Teague saw fit. Miller was content chasing because Always B Miki has always been at his best chasing down horses no matter what the obstacle.

There’s only one more chapter left to this story and it would appear no matter how many horses line up on November 12 for the TVG Final at The Meadowlands, only two will matter. That makes it another match race of sorts and you would have to believe that all things being equal, Always B Miki has the edge.

Then again, what if Wiggle It Jiggleit decides to sit the pocket?

In as much as the older pacing wars have impacted the competition, it would seem that the sophomore pacing filly battles have softened up the division leaders to some degree. After compelling performances in Kentucky, Darlinonthebeach and Pure Country appeared to be poised for a winner-take-all Breeders Crown finale. Instead the two fillies played also-rans as L A Delight and Call Me Queen Be not only overcame post position disadvantage, but matched strides right to the wire in a thrilling finish. Pure Country and Darlinonthebeach were both positioned well for the stretch drive but clearly didn’t have it. In their defense, both were making their 20th starts of the year and most of those included end-to-end battle. There are only so many 1:50 miles for pacing fillies and it appeared as if both had reached their limits.

Jimmy Takter’s deep trotting stable has been an advantage in Breeders Crown sophomore trotting events for years. He had a distinct numbers edge on Saturday as Lagerfeld provided the perfect cover for stablemate Bar Hopping to capture the Crown finale. Triple Crown winner Marion Marauder was clearly not himself but Southwind Frank, snake-bitten much of the year, looked good on the racetrack until he found himself hopelessly shut off in the stretch when Bar Hopping and Tim Tetrick rolled to the lead.

Yannick Gingras generally likes the front end when he’s going for big money and the decision to tuck in behind Sutton through a pedestrian opening quarter is one Gingras rarely makes.

Ironically, Andy Miller, driving Sutton, had indicated to us last week that his horse preferred to sit a trip rather than cut the mile, but Miller really had no choice once he cut the slow first quarter to remain on the front end.

It’s hard to say whether Gingras’ decision to go toe-to-toe when driving Check Six against Lyons Snyder in the 3-year-old colt Crown pace was a reaction to his Southwind Frank drive or simply the best move possible to win the race. Gingras has driven Lyons Snyder in the past and the horse while full of speed has a times been a bit rocky gaited. Brian Sears was driving Lyons Snyder on Saturday and the horse was heavily backed. It’s a rarity in this sport to see the leading drivers guiding betting favorites duke it out before the half.

In the end, driver Brett Miller finally got a Breeders Crown trophy with Racing Hill after two other Millers, Marcus and David, had captured earlier events. Brett Miller suggested going into the Crown that he needed to get a trip with Racing Hill, a horse that he believed may have been getting a little tired. The 1:48 victory was a career best for the Tony Alagna-trained son of Blue Chip Farms stallion Roll With Joe. Not bad at all for a horse with some wear and tear.

Next year’s class of sophomores appear to have distinct leaders in the male divisions and it seems as if driver Tim Tetrick will have both of them. That had to be the reason he was smiling so widely on Saturday night, aside from his three Breeders Crown victories in succession. Walner drew away from his rivals in the juvenile colt trot and in the process gave indication that he’ll finish his freshman campaign with something left in the tank. Trainer Linda Toscano and owner Ken Jacobs reached their destination with that in mind and after Saturday’s Kindergarten final will begin preparing for next year’s Hambletonian.

Trainer Ray Schnittker was still sky high after Huntsville captured the pacing Crown for juveniles. “It’s hard to equal the mile One More Laugh paced at Chester,” said Schnittker when asked to compare Huntsville’s 1:49 1/5 Crown victory to any horse he’s ever had.

To put that in perspective, One More Laugh captured the 2009 Governor’s Cup at then Harrah’s Chester in 1:49 2/5 over the five-eighths mile course. Tetrick was also aboard in that mile, with One More Laugh coming a back half in 53 seconds while racing without cover to victory.

Huntsville will conclude his season on November 19 in the Governor’s Cup at Woodbine.

“I hope there are no eliminations,” said Schnittker.

If eliminations are required, they are slated for November 11.

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