11/02/2015 11:29AM

Bergman: Wiggle It Jiggleit still belongs on a pedestal

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Wiggle It Jiggleit was racing when there was still snow on the ground this year. In total, 23 starts for the year.

We've heard it time and time again from drivers in this sport. It's hard to compare horses of different generations.

Earlier this year many wished to compare Somebeachsomewhere, arguably the best horse of the last 20 years, with Wiggle It Jiggleit, the best horse of the current generation. Many thought it premature to attempt such a comparison earlier in this season, but once Wiggle It Jiggleit put two incredible miles together in less than two hours at Delaware, Ohio in September, there was a need to assess where he stood.

Pressure mounted on owner George Teague, Jr. to push Wiggle It Jiggleit into the Breeders Crown, the decision would have cost $62,500 and guaranteed the connections nothing. Now, a few weeks later and two significant losses at the hands of Freaky Feet Pete and you start to wonder whether the coronation came a bit early?

I for one say it did not.

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What we've seen over the last month with the ascension of Freaky Feet Pete in the 3-year-old pacing class says more about the way we race our horses these days than it does about the ability of either "Pete" or Wiggle It Jiggleit.

What can't be lost with the Breeders Crown victory and the subsequent pocket-rocket effort in the Monument Circle this past Friday is just how good a horse Freaky Feet Pete really is. What shouldn't be lost at the same time is the very fact that Pete did not have to race the kind of schedule that Wiggle It Jiggleit has this year, including the number of starts and the travel required to make those starts. There were no heats, there was no North America Cup or Meadowlands Pace. There were few big races that took Freaky Feet Pete out of his comfort zone, while there were many races that Wiggle It Jiggleit contested that forced the horse to race all-out against the cream of the crop.

As many races have shown in the last few weeks, Mother Nature has caught up with Father Time and the results are convincing proof that even the best of our horses can only be granted limited dominance. Not all 1:50 miles are alike and that is simply because of the level of competition required to win races.

Comparing Freaky Feet Pete and Wiggle It Jiggleit simply based on the results the last two times the horses have competed would elevate one and diminish the other. There's no need to do that, but what there is need to do is recognize why comparisons of this generation versus those of the past have not been made by drivers.

Somebeachsomewhere only lost one time as a 3-year-old and did have some tough races along the way. However, the son of Mach Three started but 15 times during that season and perhaps that is the limit for a standardbred these days in the rugged 3-year-old ranks.

The trotting side is probably just as difficult for the sophomore set as Hambletonian winner Pinkman found out in his last two starts. There doesn't appear to be anything physically wrong with Pinkman as he continues to be driven like the best horse in the division. At the same time, you can get the impression that horses that didn't seem to be in his class in August are suddenly finding themselves passing him in the deep stretch in October.

As if we didn't have enough variables to deal with when trying to make these comparisons, one must note that both Wiggle It Jiggleit and Pinkman are geldings. Thus racing them just 15 times and calling it a season hardly makes business sense. While both may not be in the identical condition they held in July, they are still quite capable of making plenty of money for their connections on the racetrack before the calendar turns and stakes season has ended. As limiting as the racing schedule can be on a colt’s stature, it is of little consequence to the gelding.

When it comes down to it, reputation won't enhance the value of these two geldings since there is no lucrative stallion career in their futures. Conversely, look what we have witnessed during the time frame when 4-year-olds were required to return to the racetrack after their sophomore season. There was an incredible downside potential stallions had to deal with just because they lost a couple of races. Geldings do not run such risks and can return to the races each year with a clean slate. Pinkman and Wiggle It Jiggleit wll be just fine whether they continue to race through the fall or commence a 4-year-old campaign in 2016.

One horse's reputation that can't be damaged is Foiled Again. He’s also a gelding with an unending will to compete. The 11-year-old has suddenly turned his season around with a Breeders Crown elimination victory and then a score this past Friday night in the Hoosier Park Pacing Derby. The victories have tripled his win total in 2015. The odds against him winning the TVG at The Meadowlands appeared to be astronomical just a month or so ago, but given that Crown champion Always B Miki is not eligible to the last dance of the season, the door is suddenly ajar and the son of Dragon Again may be set up to do the impossible. In his corner is clearly a thinned-out group of aged performers and the fact that he's done some of his best racing when the temperature dips. Cool weather and the mile track of the Meadowlands has to favor the Ron Burke trainee with the ability to shake off bad results so incredibly well.

What’s interesting about the $400,000 TVG Pacing final on November 21 at the Meadowlands is the likelihood of a very small field. It’s a race that’s wide open and one that a horse like Wiggle It Jiggleit (eligible due to his Meadowlands Pace victory) may actually have a solid chance at winning. His second-place finish in the Monument Circle was more impressive than any other horse racing at Hoosier on Friday night with the exception of Freaky Feet Pete.

While George Teague has indicated that that Wiggle It Jiggleit will race at Dover to close out the year in the $300,000 Hap Hansen (eliminations November 23) it’s conceivable the Meadowlands could persuade him to change his mind.

 

Blaine MacMillan More than 1 year ago
Freaky beats WIJI when he can trip out. Reverse the trip and you'll get a different result.
Diego Brower More than 1 year ago
Wiggle it, has had a tough campaign racing all year against the best. Horses do tail off and its obvious that he has lost a bit of his edge. By comparison he went 1.47 on a mile track early in the season and 1.49 on a half mile track. Recently he lost to pete in 1.49 or 1.50 on a mile track. If he was as sharp as he was in the jug he's have gone 1.46 at hoosier given the variant between running 4 turns as opposed to a one mile track. The jug I think took a lot out of pete going two sub 1.50 mile on a half mile track within the span of two hours after being parked the mile in both.
Tom Dubrick More than 1 year ago
Nice piece....interesting in a great harness racing year. Tpd
Barry Lefkowitz More than 1 year ago
Terrific vision as always Jay.
Barry Lefkowitz More than 1 year ago
Terrific vision as always Jay!!!