07/06/2015 12:09PM

Bergman: Geldings taking center stage in Harness Racing

Nikki Sherman
JL Cruze (5) besting Sebastian K on Saturday (July 4) at Pocono.

Shortly after the finish of the $500,000 Earl Beal Memorial at Mohegan Sun Pocono on Saturday night I caught up with trainer Jimmy Takter. Trotting’s most celebrated trainer had just witnessed the duo from his powerful stable finished one-two to take home 75 percent of the large purse. It was Pinkman, the new world champion, with the top prize.

“Why is he a gelding?”

That’s the first question I asked of Takter.

“He’s a gelding because he was terrible in his first baby race. He just didn’t want to go. It’s something I really try not to do,” Takter said, “But he wasn’t going to make it.”

Earlier in the evening the sport’s new sensation, Wiggle It Jiggleit, captured the $500,000 Max Hempt Memorial as expected. The off-bred son of Mr Wiggles is also a gelding.

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Then there was the 4-year-old gelded son of Crazed named JL Cruze that elevated the level of his game another notch in handing the fastest trotter of all time, Sebastian K, his first defeat in a wicked 1:51 mile.

The likelihood in all three of these cases is that a lack of extraordinary bloodlines made the decision to geld these three exceptional horses of little future risk. What has been lost to prospective bloodlines has been preserved for a racing audience in desperate need of horses that can stand the test of time.

As a longtime follower of the breed, the Wiggle It Jiggleit tale is yet another one of those stories that endures in a game where some people think only those with the most money, the best drivers or the elite trainers can win the big races. Make no mistake, George Teague Jr., the owner of Wiggle It Jiggleit, is no small-time act in this sport, but his roller-coaster career appeared on a perennial downward spiral until the arrival of Wiggle It Jiggleit.

Teague, perhaps more so than any father-son duo in this sport, showed loyalty to his son Montrell, putting him behind the stables' best horses even when more experienced drivers may have been available. That confidence he showed in his son has been rewarded in a major way this year.

All critics quickly pointed to Teague causing the defeat of Wiggle It Jiggleit in the North America Cup, but the driver did not lose that race and perhaps as he explained on Saturday, neither did the horse. “He didn’t see the other horse coming,” said Montrell Teague of the North America Cup defeat and the change in equipment that allowed the horse to see more of the action.

“He’s usually a handful before the races,” said Teague on Saturday, himself surprised that Wiggle It Jiggleit was rather composed in his stall waiting the time between detention and action.

On Saturday, driver Scott Zeron wanted to sit behind Wiggle It Jiggleit with Artspeak. He knew where he needed to be to give his horse any chance at victory. His trip couldn’t have worked out any better, but in the end you could see that Artspeak wasn’t breathing the same kind of air Wiggle It Jiggleit was. The winner was full of himself crossing the wire and the chasers were all out looking for minor spoils.

In the case of JL Cruze, you just have to give credit where it is due. Both trainer Eric Ell and driver John Campbell have done right by this horse and each week he continues to shine. On Saturday there really were no losers in JL Cruze’s victory over Sebastian K. The public backed the 4-year-old upstart of the world champion and it’s hard to say that Sebastian K was short considering he was on the wire in 1:51 in his seasonal debut. At the same time, as good as Sebastian K looks physically, trainer/driver Svanstedt suggested his horse was much sounder this year and that hasn’t always been the case. Svanstedt appeared uneasy at times in the bike during the race. After taking a two-hole with Sebastian K, Svanstedt looked behind him on a few occasions perhaps looking for Campbell. When JL Cruze moved to the outside, Svanstedt quickly vacated the pocket to get the front. Races are won and lost on the backstretch at Mohegan Sun Pocono and Svanstedt’s decision to keep the pace honest as opposed to opening up ground on the field invited the attack of JL Cruze and essentially turned the race into a short sprint.

Last year at this time everyone was looking to find a way to keep up with Sebastian K. One year later it appears as if Svanstedt and the rest of this trotting division may have to figure out a way to get some distance from JL Cruze, otherwise the gelding will have their number.

Ironically now, JL Cruze has beaten two prized trotters that both spent time during the off-season breeding horses. Father Patrick, according to Takter, has stopped being bred to mares even though officially he could have continued to July 15. Takter was happy with the way Father Patrick trained this week and is looking forward to Saturday’s $250,000 Graduate final at the Meadowlands where his horse will meet JL Cruze once again.

JAYWALKING: In a surprise move on Monday morning, Luck Be Withyou, the Ben Franklin winner trained by Chris Oakes, was allowed to enter the William Haughton Memorial for FFA pacers at the Meadowlands. Meadowlands Chairman Jeff Gural had previously said that the race office had accepted Luck Be Withyou’s entry in error when he raced in the Graduate in early June. Gural said on Monday since the track had made that error he would permit Luck Be Withyou to enter for the Haughton with Oakes listed as trainer.

Gural also noted that Classic Martine, originally the subject of a banishment from Meadowlands stakes races because of her connection to Oakes, would now be allowed to race because the horse has been moved into Steve Elliott’s stable.

Dancin Yankee, another Haughton eligible with ties to a banned trainer in Josh Green, has also been permitted to race in the Haughton according to Gural. Finally, JK Endofanera, a horse that was barred from racing in the Graduate final because it would have meant breaking the Meadowlands two-horse maximum per trainer rule, will be allowed in the Haughton after moving into the Takter barn just last week, less than the 30-days required by the race rules.

“I told them I would waive the rule as long as they agree not to transfer the horse back to Burke for the remainder of the year,” Gural said in regard to JK Endofanera.

JK Endofanera co-owner Ron Katz was clearly upset about the original ruling. “We didn’t want to move the horse from Burke but he (Gural) left us no choice,” Katz said.