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Yonkers: Wiggle It Jiggleit is the first Horse of the Year to race in Levy
Wiggle It Jiggleit has already done things never before seen on a half-mile racetrack. And he will add to that list when he heads to Yonkers for Saturday’s third round of the George Morton Levy Memorial Pacing Series.
That’s because on Saturday the 4-year-old Wiggle It Jiggleit will become the first returning Horse of the Year Award winner to ever compete in the Levy. The Levy began in 1978 and was raced through 1996 before an 11-year hiatus. The event returned in 2007.
Wiggle It Jiggleit, who was not entered in the first two rounds of this year’s six-week series, will start from post seven in Saturday’s third of four $50,000 divisions. Montell Teague will drive Wiggle It Jiggleit for trainer Clyde Francis and owners George Teague Jr. Inc. and Teague Racing Partnership.
Despite starting from an outside post, Wiggle It Jiggleit is the 2-1 morning line favorite in his third-round division, which also includes the Levy’s defending champion, Domethatagain, as well as morning line second choice Ideal Cowboy.
Wiggle It Jiggleit heads to the series off a victory in his seasonal debut Monday night at Dover Downs. For his career, the gelding has won 24 of 28 races and earned $2.21 million. He captured 22 of 26 starts last season on his way to being named Horse of the Year by the U.S. Harness Writers Association.
“The first race back always makes you a little nervous, but he was good and I was very happy with him,” owner George Teague Jr. said. “He didn’t get beat up, so I felt better putting him back in (to race Saturday). I wish I’d drawn better than post seven, but I’m sure everyone that draws outside at Yonkers feels the same way too.
“He’s a very unusual horse to be racing in the Levy, from the standpoint that I’m sure there haven’t been a whole lot of Horse of the Year horses come back and race this early --- if they came back to race at all. I don’t think too many people would take a shot at the Levy, with the racing so many weeks in a row and being a half-mile racetrack. But he’s never lost on a half-mile track. I’m sure that’s going to change, but that’s not a bad thing for him to be on a half.”
Wiggle It Jiggleit is 4-for-4 on half-mile ovals, with his wins coming last year in historic fashion. He posted a 1:49 victory at Harrington Raceway, which is the fastest half-mile victory ever by a 3-year-old in harness racing history, and won the Little Brown Jug in straight heats of 1:49 2/5 and 1:49 3/5. He also won the Milstein Memorial in 1:49 3/5 at Northfield Park, which set the track record for fastest mile by a 3-year-old.
No other horse in history has in a single year won four times on a half-mile track in 1:49 3/5 or faster. In fact, only two other horses have ever won multiple times on a half-mile oval in 1:49 3/5 or faster --- Clear Vision, who totaled four such wins divided between 2013 and 2014, and Rock N Roll Heaven, who swept the 2010 Little Brown Jug with identical 1:49 2/5 triumphs.
Wiggle It Jiggleit, a son of Mr Wiggles-Mozzi Hanover, will need to be at his half-mile best on Saturday as he attempts to overcome his outside starting spot. Post seven at Yonkers has produced winners in only 5.7 percent of 663 starts.
“I haven’t raced there much, but I’ve watched the races over there and it doesn’t seem like a normal half-mile track,” said the 25-year-old Montrell Teague, who in his career has driven nine races at Yonkers. “It’s a little different coming from the outside there; a little harder to get to the front. They say the inside horses have at least a length advantage going into that (first) turn. Hopefully, we can get a good trip.”
On Monday, Wiggle It Jiggleit won the $60,000 Invitational Handicap at Dover Downs, beating Rockeyed Optimist by one length in 1:51 4/5.
“I was very happy with it,” Teague said. “There were some good horses. It was kind of in my favor because I was inside of (Rockeyed Optimist and Bettor’s Edge on the starting gate) and could see what they were going to do. Leaving out of there, I knew that Rockeyed Optimist was going to come off the gate and be the main one. It was pretty good to have him behind me and I could dictate the fractions. I was able to back it down and then sprint home. It was like a training mile for him.”
Wiggle It Jiggleit’s late arrival to the Levy puts him in a difficult spot to qualify for the $200,000-added final on April 23. Horses receive 25 points for entering, then 50 points for a win, 25 for second place, 12 for third, 8 for fourth and 5 for fifth. Bit Of A Legend N, Lucan Hanover, and Take It Back Terry are all 2-for-2 in the series and the top 11 horses in the standings have at least 100 points so far.
Bit Of A Legend N drew post eight in Saturday’s second division and Lucan Hanover and Take It Back Terry both drew into the fourth division. In fact, the fourth division features five of the top 13 horses in points, with Doctor Butch, Mach It So, and Texas Terror N also part of the eight-horse field.
“I hope we can make it to the final,” Teague Jr. said. “I know it’s going to be a tough task. But even if he doesn’t, I’ve put up $5,000 (to nominate Wiggle It Jiggleit to the Levy) to race for $50,000 each week. Where else am I going to race? I don’t believe in giving him off six months and then racing. My theory is to race him now.”
If Wiggle It Jiggleit can advance and win the Levy final, he would be the first 4-year-old to do so since Whiteland Trouble in 1992.
“As usual, when you bring Wiggle It Jiggleit to the racetrack you have to be confident that you’ve got a chance,” Teague Jr. said. “If he’s on his game, and he’s sound and healthy, I think he can go with anybody else. I’ve never seen a horse that can take the amount of air he can take and hit the stretch and find another gear.
“I feel pretty confident that he’s going to show up and do well. He hasn’t done anything to make me change my mind on that.”
-Courtesy of Harness Racing Communications, a division of the U.S. Trotting Association. For more information, please visit www.ustrotting.com