04/22/2016 12:51PM

Harness: Connections hope for another fine year from Always B Miki

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Derick Giwner
Always B Miki

As Bob Boni gets older, he appreciates more and more the value of each day. That being said, Boni perhaps envies Rip Van Winkle a bit, wishing he could have slumbered through the winter to only awaken for the day that star male pacer Always B Miki made his 2016 racing debut.

Boni, of course, did not sleep the months away. But the day for which he waited finally arrives Saturday. Always B Miki, undefeated in four races last year after overcoming two bouts with injuries that had sidelined him for 11 months, makes his seasonal bow in the $25,000 Open Handicap at the Meadowlands.

Always B Miki, starting from post seven in a seven-horse field, is the 7-5 favorite with regular driver David Miller at the lines for trainer Jimmy Takter.

“I think everyone involved with the horse is anxious to see him get back,” said Boni, who is a member of the Bluewood Stable group that owns Always B Miki with Joe Hurley’s Roll The Dice Stable, and Christina Takter. “I’ve said (to fellow owner Mitchel Skolnick) that one of the negatives of this business is you want time to pass too quickly. It’s almost like you’d like to fall asleep and wake up and we’re ready to race. There was that anticipation.”

[DRF HARNESS LIVE: Real-time insights from the DRF Harness team this Saturday at 7:00 p.m.]

Last year, Always B Miki was 4-for-4 with his wins including the Breeders Crown Open Pace in late October and the American-National Stakes in early November. He won his four starts by an average of nearly four lengths, never seeing a foe nearer than 1 3/4 lengths of him at the finish line.

“It was frustrating to have to close up shop when it seemed like he was fresh and fit and really starting to get stronger, but there were no other races for him at that time of year,” Boni said. “He’s shown us, throughout his career, what he’s capable of. Hopefully, knock on wood, he gets the opportunity this year.”

Always B Miki, a son of Always A Virgin-Artstopper bred by Roll The Dice Stable, has won 18 of 35 career races and earned $1.22 million in purses.

As a 2-year-old, he raced predominantly at Hoosier Park in Indiana, where he won a preliminary division of the Indiana Sire Stakes and finished third in both of the $200,000 finals. At 3, he spent the season in the stable of trainer Joe Holloway and won the Indiana Sire Stakes championship and Monument Circle plus a division of the Tattersalls Pace and finished second in the Meadowlands Pace. He also won an elimination for the Breeders Crown, but was scratched moments before the final because of the first of his two leg injuries.

“He’s had a great career for us,” Boni said. “Joe did a terrific job racing him at 3. He wasn’t always the straightest horse on the racetrack, he’d get himself crooked in the turns, but still showed that ability.

“I think that something that gets lost in the shuffle is (trainer) Roger Welch did a wonderful job with him at 2. It doesn’t get enough attention, but he really taught him how to be a racehorse. He had his issues at 2 as well, then coming back at 3 Joe did a great job with him to do what he did. Hopefully it just continues on now.”

Always B Miki, who has finished no worse than second in his last 16 races dating back to July 2014, has developed into a “really impressive looking horse,” Boni said. Some of his maturation might be the result of sitting out much of last year.

“He’s a big, strong guy,” Boni said. “It shows you the difference that we always get to see with our older horses. Due to circumstances that we wish did not happen, he had the opportunity maybe to develop physically a little more than he might have. Especially through his hind end, he’s a bigger, stronger horse right now. Hopefully we see it this year.

“Jimmy has done great work with him; he does everything Jimmy asks him to do. David also does a superb job. When you watch him train, or watch him race, you really don’t get an idea of how fast he’s going. The horse just gets over the ground so nice and easy.”

Always B Miki’s competition Saturday includes Rockeyed Optimist, who has won five of seven races this year and finished no worse than second in any start, stablemate JK Endofanera, and Atta Boy Dan, who arrives from Dover Downs where he won two of his last three races in the Open Preferred Handicap. His setback was a second-place finish to Rockeyed Optimist, who is the 8-5 second choice on the morning line.

-Courtesy of Harness Racing Communications, a division of the U.S. Trotting Association. For more information, please visit www.ustrotting.com