11/29/2016 1:39PM

Giwner: Always B Miki the obvious choice for Horse of the Year

Derick Giwner
Always B Miki set a world record of 1:46 at The Red Mile in 2016.

I find the 2016 Horse of the Year debates in Harness Racing to be quite perplexing. For one, why are we so focused on just two horses—Always B Miki and Wiggle It Jiggleit? Secondly, at least in my view, there really shouldn’t be a doubt in anyone’s mind who should receive the sport’s highest yearly equine honor.

What does a horse have to do in order to be in the conversation for Horse of the Year? What if the horse dominates their division, wins 14 out of 15 races (with one second) and finishes fifth in earnings for the year? Those are the stats behind 3-year-old pacing colt Betting Line, who very well might have led the nation in earnings if he didn’t get hurt late in the year.

I’m not saying we should bestow Betting Line with Horse of the Year honors, but it is a shame that not one person seems to be even mentioning his name for consideration.

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Then we have Hannelore Hanover. She won 17 times in 20 starts and only finished worse than second once in 2016. Along the way, the 4-year-old trotting mare overcame two major “obstacles” that much of the harness world say are difficult to achieve. She beat the boys on multiple occasions and she did it all as a mere 4-year-old against her elders. What does a girl have to do to get some love?

What about Marion Marauder? He won the Trotting Triple Crown, finished fourth in earnings and won 10 of 15 starts. Certainly he deserves at least a mention, no?

The fact remains that we have fallen in love with the Always B Miki/Wiggle It Jiggleit saga, and rightfully so. Their battles have been thrilling, epic encounters which resulted in some of the only “must watch” races of the year. The pair deserve to be the top names in the conversation, but for those voting, don’t get sucked in by the hype of the top two. Give each potential candidate a good once-over before locking in your final answer.

With the above off my chest, and having provided due consideration to each of the horses, Always B Miki should be a slam dunk as Horse of the Year. His record (18-12-5-0) and earnings ($1,487,292, 3rd in North America) are comparable or better than his counterparts. Then you have the intangibles…

For the last decade while I’ve been writing about this sport, every year I hear how this horse or that horse is capable of breaking the 1:46 4/5 world record originally set in 2006 by Holborn Hanover at The Meadowlands. If I had a dollar for every time a trainer or driver told me their horse could beat the record, I could certainly play at least a $20 double, maybe more.

Trainer Jimmy Takter was one of the people who told me Always B Miki could do it. Well, it ain’t bragging if you actually do it. Always B Miki not only broke the record, but he eliminated all doubt as to who the fastest horse in history is by eclipsing Cambest’s 1:46 1/5 time trial that was set more than 20 years ago.

Of course, one race doesn’t earn you Horse of the Year honors.

In addition to the record, Always B Miki also won three races in 1:47 and another one in 1:47 1/5! Only one other horse (Mel Mara) paced a winning mile in 1:47 this year and main contender Wiggle It Jiggleit owns a 2016 best of 1:47 2/5.

We all know that Always B Miki also won the head-to-head battle with Wiggle It Jiggleit in 2016 and overall win percentage was basically even. I will give Wiggle It Jiggleit credit for never finishing off the board while amassing 24 starts, more than any horse in the top 15 in earnings.

None of the above is a knock on Wiggle It Jiggleit. He is a great horse who had a phenomenal year. He has been the face of the sport all year and hopefully will carry that baton for many years to come. But looking at the entirety of what both horses did versus each other and separately, I find it very difficult to make a case for anyone other than Always B Miki.

One final thought, wouldn’t it be nice if Wiggle It Jiggleit won in 1:45 4/5 in 2017? Just sayin’. I need something to keep me occupied through the winter.