08/12/2016 10:26AM

Hoosier: Always B Miki looks to rebound in Dan Patch

Derick Giwner
Always B Miki is the 8/5 morning line favorite.

It’s no longer the big three. Nine entered Friday’s $325,000 Dan Patch Free For All at Hoosier Park and although Always B Miki has been tabbed the 8-5 favorite, the 5-year-old won’t have an easy time starting from post nine in perhaps the most talented aged pacing field to assemble this year.

While Always B Miki is being joined by 2015 Horse of the Year Wiggle It Jiggleit (post 1) and last year’s sophomore Breeders Crown champion Freaky Feet Pete (post 2), the Dan Patch has increased depth with the arrival of newly crowned U.S. Pacing Championship winner Shamballa (post 7) along with the supplemental entry, the lightning fast Mel Mara (post 5).

Bob Boni, co-owner (Bluewood Stable) of Always B Miki, was apprehensive heading into last Saturday’s U.S. Pacing Championship at The Meadowlands. Boni was in the paddock before the race and was more than concerned. “He has missed three weeks. I’m not sure how that’s going to affect him,” Boni said prior to the first off-the-board finish by Always B Miki in the last two years.

“I do think he’ll be much better on Friday,” Boni said, suggesting that the pacesetting effort in the U.S. Pacing Championship most certainly would improve the sharpness of the 5-year-old Indiana-bred son of Always A Virgin.

As far as the outside lane in the field of nine, Boni seemed to think it wouldn’t be a hindrance, though it wasn’t his preferred post. “Sure I’d like him to have drawn inside,” Boni said.

David Miller once again will sit behind the William Haughton Memorial and Ben Franklin winner this Friday as he and Always B Miki attempt to regain winning form.

The job won’t be easy, especially given that the two Indiana-sired 4-year-olds drew the inside two spots.

Wiggle It Jiggleit has maintained his form throughout this season, finishing on the board in all 16 starts including 10 eventful trips to the winner’s circle. Last week Wiggle It Jiggleit shook free in mid-stretch but lacked the momentum of Shamballa in the late stages, finishing second in the Meadowlands stakes event.

Montrell Teague has used the inside to his advantage in the past and there’s no reason to believe he may not want to put this field in line and attempt to cut the pace.

Perhaps a return to Hoosier Park will be all that’s necessary to revive Freaky Feet Pete. The son of Rockin Image has not won since an elimination for the Ben Franklin on June 25, with his most recent performance, a seventh-place finish in the U.S. Pacing Championship, his second consecutive off-the-board finish. Trace Tetrick will steer Freaky Feet Pete.

New Jersey more than agreed with the Ontario-based Shamballa. In his two trips to the Meadowlands this year he finished a solid second behind Always B Miki in the Haughton and then catapulted off a perfect cover trip in the aforementioned Pacing Championship to score for Scott Zeron, son of trainer Rick Zeron. The environment changes on Friday with the 6-year-old son of Somebeachsomewhere drawing outside. Known for his solid stretch kick, Shamballa could certainly be in play with an accelerated pace.

The presence of Mel Mara in the field adds an interesting variable since the revived son of Lis Mara has displayed brilliant speed both on and off the pace since joining trainer Dylan Davis’ stable. Mel Mara should feel right at home with Davis having a Hoosier Park operation to go along with his stable in Delaware. Mel Mara rebounded from a fourth-place finish in the Franklin, a race his connections supplemented to as well, with a resounding 1:48 4/5 blowout victory at Harrah’s Philadelphia on July 17. After three weeks off he returned with an excellent prep at The Meadowlands finishing a solid third against open company.

The Dan Patch marks the first stakes encounter as a 4-year-old for last year’s North America Cup winner Wakizashi Hanover (post 3). Rounding out the field is the near double millionaire All Bets Off (post 4), last year’s Cane Pace champion Dealt A Winner (post 6) and the $1.2 million winner Luck Be Withyou (post 8).

The Dan Patch is race 12 of 14 Friday at Hoosier Park. Post time is 5:45 p.m., with the Dan Patch scheduled to go to post at 9:45.

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