06/01/2016 3:51PM

Bergman: Wiggle It Jiggleit deserves praise, promotion

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Mark Hall/USTA
Wiggle It Jiggleit won a pair of stakes races in May.

Here comes summer!

How do I know?

It’s getting very hot out there.

While the calendar has us three weeks removed from the next season, activity on the racetrack over the last weekend indicates the level of competition and excellence has already risen to a fever pitch. The races that come ahead can only get better, faster and even more interesting.

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In an era where no one wins every time (Golden State Warriors lost 3 of 4 games), champions are still champions and they rise to the occasion. Such was the case this past Sunday when Wiggle It Jiggleit demonstrated to the racing world incredible quickness and determination in taking down the $200,000 Dorothy Mullin at Harrah’s Philadelphia.

The defending Horse of the Year avenged a loss on less than equal footing in the Confederation Cup just a few weeks ago to Rockin Ron with a magnificent mile, missing the world record by a fifth of a second over a track never known to bring out the fastest clockings.

The victory was the second straight for Wiggle It Jiggleit and considering just how rickety he looked at Mohawk Raceway when losing a prep for the Confederation Cup, one has to believe that Team Teague and Clyde Francis have gotten to the root of any lingering issues and returned the 4-year-old to the soundness necessary to compete in and win at the highest level.

For Rockin Ron, there was nothing to be ashamed of in defeat, as the Ron Burke trained 4-year-old lost for just the second time since joining the sport’s leading stable. Rockin Ron was brilliant once again, pushing two individually wicked quarters and just being outpaced by a horse that can take turns like no other.

What is notably encouraging for the sport and fans of it is the incredible intensity of the action with enough serious players to make for highly competitive racing. While six others hardly found a way into the Mullin, the fact that there was solid action in the first quarter and an all-out war on the backstretch the final time is enough to raise the heart rate of anyone with a mild interest.

Maybe this isn’t exactly what Jeff Gural was looking for when he asked owners of 4-year-olds not to retire their horses to stud. At the same time, one has to wonder whether the public cares in the least if their champions can potentially breed or not. If this is the kind of excellence Mr. Gural and company wanted, then maybe it’s time for the industry to step up and promote broader interest in the coming races involving a single horse that not only has a rich storyline, but can back it up on the racetrack while making each and every stop north and south of the border.

It’s certainly well too early for us to predict how the rest of the racing season will play out and whether horses that are currently sharp can maintain such an edge through the course of a hot summer and into the fall. At the same time, Wiggle It Jiggleit, through his travels and travails, has more than earned a special place, one that should be promoted and celebrated by a unified industry.

It’s one thing to ask for sacrifice with the promise of better days, but much worse to ignore the promise when a potential equine savior has arrived.

With the style and demands of racing in North America, winning every race against older competition is near impossible and certainly improbable. The table has been set remarkably well in the early stages of what promises to be a great year. That 4-year-olds are racing at such a high level before June suggests the immediate future will bring out some of the best racing we have seen in quite some time.

Remember, Freaky Feet Pete got the better of Wiggle It Jiggleit at the end of last season and truly didn’t have a shot to beat him in the Battle Of Lake Erie given how well the winner negotiated the first turn on that night at Northfield. Perhaps a five-eighths or mile track will put the two on more of an even footing.

Laying in the wings is another potential super horse in Always B Miki. The 5-year-old has taken a vastly different approach to this campaign racing exclusively at The Meadowlands in his first three starts and making a fourth “tune-up” there this Saturday night for just $25,000. It’s hard to fault Jimmy Takter for keeping a close watch on this horse considering how high the praise level has gone thus far. Due to injury Always B Miki will be making just his eighth start for Takter over an 18 month span, which has made it much more difficult for him to get the notoriety of a Wiggle It jiggleit.

In the past we used to frown on horses that appeared to duck the competition. Always B Miki has never been on a half-mile track and that trend will continue this year. It’s part of the dynamic that has essentially limited the two from meeting each other to date in 2016.

The burning questions are whether something extra will have been taken out of Wiggle It Jiggleit before he finally meets up with Always B Miki or whether enough has gone into Always B Miki to prepare him for racing a sub 1:20 first three quarters?

The answer to those questions is likely at least a few weeks away as Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs appears to be the meeting place on June 25 for eliminations of the $500,000 Ben Franklin.

It’s going to be a hot summer indeed.

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lord_at_war More than 1 year ago
"but much worse to ignore the promise when a potential equine savior has arrived."

Good luck with that...  I gave up on harness racing when I hit the exacta in a ten horse field at Scioto in 1991 with a 22-1 shot nosing out a 10-1.

The winner paid $46.40, the place animal paid $11.20.

The $1 exacta paid $73.60 (not a typo)-  I realize that cheating also occurs in thoroughbred racing, but that seemed rather criminal...
Mike Hummel More than 1 year ago
The WIJI who showed up at Northfield is a monster.  The WIJI at Philly is an all-time great.  

It's going to be a great summer with 4 top-drawer horses like WIJI, FFP, Always B Miki, and Rockin Ron in competition.  Let's hope they all stay healthy, in form, and race each other often.
Blaine MacMillan More than 1 year ago
I like Always B Miki....