01/21/2017 11:12PM

Giwner: Mapping out a schedule for Wiggle It Jiggleit in 2017

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Derick Giwner
Wiggle It Jiggleit will skip the Levy Memorial series at Yonkers raceway in 2017.

We are in the heart of winter, so it is best to think warm thoughts. When it comes to racing, few horses get the blood pumping like Wiggle It Jiggleit and luckily for us, he is doing well while enjoying a well-deserved vacation.

“If the weather is good, we’ll start bringing him back around the first of March,” said owner George Teague Jr., who said it would take about two months before Wiggle It Jiggleit would be ready to officially hit the track. “He is coming off a grueling year and really only had about three months off through 24 months of action as a 3 and 4-year-old. Last year we gave him two months off and we decided to give him an extra six weeks this year because I want to have him around for another 4 or 5 years at this level.”

Teague also stressed the long racing season (the final stakes race for his division is at the end of November) and lack of places to race early in the year outside of the George Morton Levy series at Yonkers Raceway as reasons for the later start. “If you start them too early, you end up racing in qualifiers for nothing or in races worth $20,000. I want to save my horse for the stakes races,” said Teague.

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The 2015 Horse of the Year, Wiggle it Jiggleit played the role of runner-up in the 2016 voting behind Always B Miki. That was despite a strong campaign which saw the George Teague-owned gelding win 15 times in 24 starts while topping the earnings list with $1,719,062.

As good as he was last year, the absence of Always B Miki and top 3-year-old Betting Line to retirement could set Wiggle It Jiggleit up for a year for the ages. At least in January, it is hard to forecast a race where the now 5-year-old gelding won’t be favored.

“I think so,” said Teague when asked if Wiggle It Jiggleit will have a big year. “He had a really big year last year and the year before. I expect that when he races it is money in the bank every start. I’m sure somebody will pop up to challenge him. [Freaky Feet] Pete will be back soon and I’m sure they wouldn’t bring him back if he wasn’t right. I don’t see overwhelming competition if my horse is healthy, but I’m not counting anyone out, either.”

Wiggle It Jiggleit has been sitting in the field for the past two months, relaxing and eating. According to Teague, he wants the gelding to get completely “deprogrammed” without having to “live on the edge” in any way.

While Teague admits he has shied away from mapping out a firm schedule, we can certainly guesstimate where in North America Wiggle It Jiggleit may be as the year progresses. It was originally thought that the Levy series on March 18 at Yonkers would mark his debut, but that plan has been scrapped with a return closer to early to mid May on the horizon. That leaves a yet to be named race at Harrah’s Philadelphia, called the Dorothy Mullin Invitational in 2016, as his first stakes engagement on May 28. Assuming Wiggle It Jiggleit stays healthy, I have him projected for 19-20 on-track appearances in 2017.

Let’s take a look at the stakes schedule for older pacers (Finals Only) as we expect it to look this year. Italicized races represent that the date of the race hasn’t been officially confirmed.

DATE TRACK RACE
4-22 Yonkers Raceway Levy Memorial
5-28 Harrah's Philadelphia T.B.A.
6-3 Northfield Park Battle of Lake Erie
7-1 Pocono Downs Ben Franklin (plus elims)
7-15 Meadowlands William Haughton
7-22 Saratoga Raceway Gerrity Memorial
8-5 Meadowlands U.S. Pacing Championship
8-11 Hoosier Park Dan Patch
8-20 Tioga Downs Roll With Joe
9-2 Mohawk Cdn Pacing Derby (plus elims)
9-9 Scioto Downs Ewart Memorial
9-18 Harrington Raceway Quillen Memorial
9-23 Hoosier Park Hoosier Pacing Derby
9-29 Dayton Raceway Dayton Pacing Derby
10-7 Red Mile Allerage
10-14 Yonkers Yonkers Invitational
10-28 Hoosier Breeders Crown (plus elims)
Nov. Rosecroft Raceway Potomac Pace
11-25 Meadowlands TVG Pace

(all elims take place the prior week)

Looking at the above list, I expect Wiggle It Jiggleit to appear on all dates from Philly on May 28 through the U.S. Pacing Championship on August 5. After that I have to question whether it makes sense to ship to Indiana for the Dan Patch with it being just six days later. Either way, he should be at Tioga on August 20 and hit each of the dates through the Quillen on September 18. The Hoosier Park Pacing Derby on September 23 seems improbable since the Quillen is five days prior and you have to believe Teague will start Wiggle It Jiggleit on his home track. September should conclude with the Dayton Pacing Derby.

Perhaps the most anticipated start of the year for Wiggle It Jiggleit could be on October 7 at the Red Mile. For all he has done on the track, 1:47 2/5 remains his lifetime best time and you have to think his connections would like to break the 1:47 barrier at least once, right?

“That may be more appealing to me as the season gets longer,” said Teague on the possibility of setting a new lifetime mark over the blazing-fast Red Mile surface. “Right now, for me to ship 10 to 12 hours to Kentucky (from Delaware) for $75,000 (possible winners share), it doesn’t seem that important.”

Teague added that he will likely stake to the Allerage and see how the schedule works out. “If it fits in the schedule, maybe (I’ll go). I’ve seen what it takes out of horses, going that fast. I think my horse is capable of (1):46, just like Always B Miki did.”

While the Standardbred world was captivated by Always B Miki’s accomplishment of breaking the world record and setting a new standard of 1:46 as the fastest mile in history, Teague felt the performance would’ve had more value if Wiggle It Jiggleit was in the race.

“I don’t think it holds much merit when you consider the horses he was facing,” said Teague. “Shamballa, All Bets Off, Dealt A Winner and Split The House are nice horses, but I don’t think you can compare them to Wiggle It jiggleit. If they could stay within a length or two of him in that mile, I don’t think it (the time) means nearly as much.”

Moving past Lexington on the schedule, I guess he could skip the Yonkers Invitational and stay in the Midwest with the Breeders Crown eliminations just two weeks after the Allerage at the Red Mile, but it is not like Teague to leave money on the table and a race at Yonkers is right up Wiggle It Jiggleit’s alley. To close out the year, I’m guessing the Potomac Pace will be placed somewhere in the first two weeks of November and work nicely as a lead up to the TVG Final on November 25 at The Meadowlands.

If all follows according to my guesstimate, fans at 14 different tracks should have a chance to see by far the most popular Standardbred in North America. That’s a nice showcase in what could very well be a Horse of the Year campaign.

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