Harness racing fans might not have been surprised to see the George Teague Stable advance two pacers to Saturday's $300,140 Max C. Hempt Memorial
at Pocono Downs. After all, Teague had six horses spread among last weekend's three elimination races.
If the odds were any indication, however, fans might have been surprised by which of the three-year-olds reached the final. Mr Wiggles, sent off at 12-1, and Johnny Z, who was part of a favoured entry with Matts Scooter winner Chasin Racin, were among nine horses to advance to the Hempt
Chasin Racin, along with Teague's favoured Barber Pole, plus well-backed Built To Drive and Bunkmeister, were not as fortunate.
Teague, for his part, was not taken aback.
"I thought (Johnny Z) and Chasin Racin were pretty close to each other; I didn't think there was a whole lot of difference between the two," Teague said. "I expected the others to do a little better, but I'm happy. Chasin Racin's trip didn't work out the best and the others didn't get around the track. It was one of those days. That's why they race them and don't send you the cheques early."
Johnny Z, by The Panderosa out of the mare Sepia Hanover, raced four times last year and won divisions of the Pennsylvania Sires Stakes and Reynolds Memorial, in addition to a second-place finish. This season, he has two wins in five starts. He was fifth in the Matts Scooter on March 21 and, after coming up sick and having bled, did not race again until last Saturday.
"Brian (Sears) did a good job putting him on the front end and he raced super," Teague said. "The trip definitely didn't hurt him. I've always thought he had talent. We put him away early last year to get over colt soreness; he just wasn't a hundred percent. After the Matts Scooter, we shut him down and healed him up. It worked out good for us. He's a nice colt. He shows big guts, he really does. He likes doing his job and when he's a hundred percent gives you a big effort."
Mr Wiggles underwent throat surgery following a second-place finish at Harrah's Chester on April 23. Teague also made equipment changes to correct difficulty steering the colt. He has won three of five races this season and finished second twice. The son of Badlands Hanover-Wiggle Hanover has won eight of 13 races and earned $135,006 in his career.
"He raced real well," Teague said. "He's one of those easy going horses that can really get it done. He's got the tools."
(Harness Racing Communications)