03/10/2017 2:44PM

Harness: Wiggle It Jiggleit aiming to debut in Ben Franklin at Pocono

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Although he did not capture the 2016 Horse of the Year crown, Wiggle It Jiggleit still received a tremendous outpouring of emotion from some very devoted admirers who were not intimate with the sport. From the raucous crowd chanting his name as he led the post parade for last year’s Little Brown Jug, to the many parents who whispered in their children’s ears as they held them aloft to witness such a great horse, Wiggle It Jiggle has undeniably achieved superstar status.

Unfortunately, his legions of fans have three long months to wait before the 5-year-old gelding returns to competition and commences a season that could be every bit as spectacular as Horse of the Year Always B Miki’s final campaign.

“He’ll come back in the Ben Franklin June 24,” said his owner, George Teague Jr. “There was no sense in bringing him back this month after all the hard racing he did the last two years. The last thing I want to do is pound him into the ground early this year in a spot like the Levy. It’s a long year and we have the TVG and Breeders Crown at the end of October and in November.

“I thought about putting him in the Battle of Lake Erie, but that’s a little too early (June 3). We will start training him in three weeks, then just qualify him a few times before the Franklin.”

With his last appearance on Oct. 28 in the $421,000 Breeders Crown final, where he relinquished the lead to Always B Miki in the stretch to finish second, the 2016 O’Brien Award winner as Canada’s Older Pacing Horse of the Year has now been on vacation for four months.

Wiggle It Jigglit has virtually been an iron horse for the last two years with an astonishing resume of 51-38-10-2. The only occasion the son of Mr Wiggles-Mozzi Hanover has not been in the trifecta was a fourth place finish in the $319,400 Cane Pace in 2015.

Conditioned by Clyde Francis and steered by Teague’s son Montrell, the horse has banked just over $3.9 million, accumulated multiple world records and various track standards in a simply stellar career. Teague is certainly more than justified in providing Wiggle It Jiggleit with some extended time to rest and relax, which the gelding appears to be relishing.

“I realize people are probably wondering about him,” Teague said. “I know when a horse is not racing for that long when they usually are out there all the time, I would be asking if something was wrong, but he’s just fine. He’s here with me out back where I can look out my window and watch him.

“We started jogging him about two weeks ago, but I just have him turned out all the time. We jog him and put him right back out. He’s with another horse, Western Ace, who is 14, and it’s actually really funny to watch; he follows Ace around everywhere. It’s like that’s his mother or something. He’s really a different horse out there than when he is in his stall. You can go right up to him and pet him.”

Teague is referring to the fiery temperament and unpredictable antics Wiggle It Jiggle has displayed on the track, in the paddock and in the winner’s circle throughout his career. Unlike many champions, the gelding does not enjoy having his picture taken and hammers that preference home with alacrity.

“He is not a horse that likes attention, that’s for sure,” Teague said. “He likes to be left alone and do his thing. You have to watch him even when he’s jogging because a horse turns around and starts pacing when he’s out there, he wants to go. That’s just who he is.”

Despite the absence of Always B Miki who handed Wiggle It Jiggleit four of his losses after epic battles, the older pacing division is still stocked with the likes of the classy All Bets Off, U.S. Pacing Championship winner Shamballa, the talented Split The House and returning rivals Freaky Feet Pete and Wakizashi Hanover.

Both Freaky Feet Pete, a world champion himself, and Wakizashi Hanover, the 2015 North America Cup winner, own the distinction of defeating Wiggle It Jiggleit and possess outstanding credentials of their own. At this junction, however, Wiggle It Jiggleit is assuredly the marquee attraction among his colleagues and expectations are incredibly high that the gelding may not only best Always B Miki’s mark, but leave his own unique entry in the history books.

Even with all the hype surrounding his horse for 2017, Teague does not feel pressured to outpace Always B Miki or establish new records. In fact, he has another goal, one that reflects how generous he has been with presenting Wiggle It Jiggleit to his fans and spending so much of his own personal time to offer insight to the multitude of inquires about his horse.

“My only hope is to keep him a healthy, happy horse so we can have him around for several more years,” Teague said. “He needs to have the time to find another horse to pass the baton to that can make people want to continue to turn on the TV to watch races and to come to the track. He has generated so much interest in the sport and that is so exciting to watch. He has so many people that follow him and I’m proud of what he has done for racing; so that’s his job now and we just have to make sure he has the opportunity to do that.

“From where I am sitting, this is the best seat in the house. I just get to watch it all unfold myself, as Clyde (Francis) and Big Mike (Taylor, his caretaker) do all the work. Without them there would be no way all the travel would not have taken a toll on him. I’m the lucky one; those two make everything happen. They deserve all the credit for this horse.”

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