Another Classic This Saturday?

Published: July 14, 2016 01:09 pm EDT

Round Two in what is hoped to be a season-long series of pacing showdowns is set to take place at the Meadowlands Racetrack on Saturday (July 16), and at least one owner involved with the principal characters will cherish every minute of it. He likely won’t be alone.

Highlighting the $471,800 William R. Haughton Memorial for older male pacers is another much-anticipated battle between five-year-old Always B Miki and four-year-olds Wiggle It Jiggleit and Freaky Feet Pete. The trio will have its second head-to-head-to-head meeting in what is the most talked-about rivalry in harness racing in years.

Always B Miki won the first match-up at the July 2 Ben Franklin Pace at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono, beating Freaky Feet Pete by three-quarters of a length in a world-record-equalling 1:47. Wiggle It Jiggleit, the 2015 Horse of the Year, took third.

Last weekend, Wiggle It Jiggleit beat Freaky Feet Pete at the Graduate Series championship at the Big M, but the race was only for four-year-olds so Always B Miki wasn’t eligible to compete.

“Before the Ben Franklin, I can’t recall seeing as much dialogue on a race in a very, very long time,” said Bob Boni, one of Always B Miki’s owners. “There was a real buzz all week about that. It started out this week with similar sentiments. Everyone is wondering what’s going to happen in the race?

“I think it’s drawn a tremendous amount of attention. It’s on a great card, a lot of people are going to see it. We’ve got a number of other times when we’re scheduled to hook up, potentially, and I think it will be something that will continue to grow because it’s a very talented field of older horses.”

It is something that Boni and his fellow owners (Bluewood Stable, Roll The Dice Stable and Christina Takter) do not take for granted.

“We’re very fortunate and very appreciative,” Boni said. “Those are the words I constantly use. I’ve been very blessed that I’ve had some pretty good horses over the years. ‘Miki’s the latest right now and he’s about as good as anybody’s horse. It’s a great thrill, but you can’t race horses on this level for a long time and not appreciate how fortunate you can be and how great it is to be around horses like this.”

Especially when it comes to Always B Miki, who was sidelined for nearly a year because of injuries but has returned to win nine of 11 starts with two second-place finishes and earn $642,710 since last October.

In seven starts this season he has five wins and two seconds, winning $341,500. Trained by Jimmy Takter and driven predominantly by David Miller, he has finished in the money in 36 of 42 career starts, with 23 wins and $1.56 million in earnings. Roger Welch trained him as a two-year-old and Joe Holloway had him at age three, and Boni credits everyone involved for making the pacer the horse that he is today.

His chief rivals on Saturday have equally impressive statistics, which has helped create the excitement. Wiggle It Jiggleit – owned by George Teague Jr. and Teague Racing Partnership, driven by Montrell Teague, and trained by Clyde Francis – has won 32 of 40 lifetime races. Freaky Feet Pete – bred by Larry Rheinheimer, who trains the stallion for his wife, Mary Jo, and son, Marty – has won 29 of 35 career starts.

Always B Miki drew Post 5 in the Haughton Memorial, while Freaky Feet Pete is in Post 7 and Wiggle It Jiggleit is in Post 10. The race attracted 12 starters, so it will be contested at 1-1/8 miles, rather than the traditional one-mile distance.

“We always have confidence in him,” Boni said. “Jimmy and David have just done a great job with the horse. It’s going to be fun all year racing. We’ll go at it again and I’ll always say the same thing, I like our chances, as I’m sure the other guys will say, too.

“The Ben Franklin was a hard-fought race and they all were competitive, they all took shots and they made it a very good event. How it’s going to happen this week I have no idea because if you try to talk to anyone that tried to handicap the Ben Franklin, I don’t know anybody who handicapped it the way the race fell.”

Boni feels what is interesting is that all three horses are Indiana-sired and none of the three are owned by major stables, which he feels should give hope to other owners out there.

“We’re essentially a small stable, we’re one horse,” he said. “George Teague races a moderate stable and the Rheinheimers, this is the first time they’ve been exposed on this level, so these are not some of the names that you’ve seen in recent years. That’s a very healthy thing. The naysayers that say you have to buy expensive horses and have to have a big stable, that’s not always the case. You can compete. It can happen at any time.”

In assessing the horses, Boni feels each one has their unique qualities and some similarities.

“Very little seems to bother Wiggle It Jiggleit, he can race on any size racetrack, and Freaky Feet Pete, the same thing; he’s been a terrific horse from his two-year-old season,” he said. “They all have brilliant high speed. I would say the other two probably leave the gate faster than Miki does. He’s not quick off the gate. But once they get settled in they can all go very fast and they show they can go fast a long way.”

Boni says Always B Miki enters the Haughton Memorial a healthy, happy horse.

“It would have been nice if we didn’t have those injury issues, but he did,” the owner said. “In a somewhat bizarre way, I think he’s a better horse for it. He’s much sounder now.”

It’s because of those injuries that Always B Miki’s group continues to cherish all the good things that happen now.

“I don’t think there’s anybody here that takes any of this for granted and if anybody did, Miki’s had a way of reminding us with a couple incidents that we better not take it for granted,” Boni said with a laugh. “I think we’re all very appreciative. I don’t know anybody who doesn’t appreciate what he does.”

The Haughton Memorial is part of a stakes-filled card Saturday at the Meadowlands. Among the night’s other races are the Crawford Farms Meadowlands Pace, Mistletoe Shalee, Hambletonian Maturity, and divisions of the Stanley Dancer Memorial and Delvin Miller Memorial.

Following is the field for the Haughton Memorial.

1. Limelight Beach – Joe Bongiorno – Ron Burke - 25-1
2. Shamballa – Scott Zeron – Rick Zeron - 10-1
3. Dealt A Winner – Brian Sears – Mark Silva - 30-1
4. Americanprimetime – John Campbell – Rick Dane Jr. - 40-1
5. Always B Miki – David Miller – Jimmy Takter - 7-5
6. Mach It So – Tim Tetrick – Jeff Bamond Jr. - 25-1
7. Freaky Feet Pete – Trace Tetrick – Larry Rheinheimer - 9-2
8. Melmerby Beach – Corey Callahan – Ettore Annunziata - 25-1
9. In The Arsenal – Brett Miller – Kelvin Harrison - 35-1
10. Wiggle It Jiggleit – Montrell Teague – Clyde Francis - 2-1
11. Always At My Place – Yannick Gingras – Ron Burke - 20-1
12. All Bets Off – Matt Kakaley – Ron Burke - 15-1

(Always At My Place and All Bets Off will start from the second tier)




Mike Scott

I know you are a huge WIJI fan and I am as well. You are seeming to have the blinders on though as you note MIKI has huge post advantage in this event but never considered WIJI's advantage in the Franklin on a smaller track. On a mile track the advantage is way less and not as important. The truth is both WIJI and FFP can bust off the gate a little faster than MIKI but it doesn't matter. When MIKI decides to move and use a burst (one of his bursts) there is no horse going to stop him and hang him out. He flew past both times, against both of them in prime spots 1-2. If they had wanted to hang him they could have as they knew he was coming and could have pushed harder. The fact is they can't compete with his burst. Take the week before WIJI was able to hang FFP out and believe me, Montrell would have loved to sting him for a bit here but he couldn't. He was resigned to the perfect two hole trip, and couldn't take advantage of it. He got the top fairly easily and had no excuse (except he is a 4 year old). He needs to bow to King MIKI and maybe next year might be his.

Enjoy the races as they are making a wonderful year for all fans. I just hope none of them get hurt.

Miki is the king of FFA's period.
If this doesn't convince you nothing will.
WIJI got a good 2 hole trip and squandered it.
Miki is a monster.
Case closed.

Jim I believe the race will be a great race although in this contest I don't believe MIKE will be at the top or trying to hang them out for long. I think it will be Limelight Beach hanging them past the quarter. I see FFP then getting the top with WIJI being stuck as R Burke has the two trailing horses to keep the gap filled and I think MIKI tucked in right behind him.
It will definitely be interesting the way it plays out as the two trailers really change the complexion of the race as horses won't be able to tuck in as easy. MIKI will be leaving and David will be able to judge whether to keep rolling or see if he can tuck. FFP and WIJI need to really bust out but how many others are thinking the same thing with the trailers?

The one sure thing is in this race as you mentioned, MIKI has a gear that no other horse has. With that I feel he can go a tough trip and still possibly beat them, or he can all of a sudden explode past them and there is nothing they can do to stop that. I don't believe the other two or another horse can go a tough trip and beat him. I also think that explosive kick MIKI has favors him in this longer race as he excels at the end of miles coming home using that kick. ( I know people will be quick to point to WIJI and the LBJ and he raced an amazing trip and is an amazing horse but that was against 3 year olds that he dominated - not these guys) Quite possibly, and hopefully if WIJI and/or FFP continue to improve as 5 year olds they may be untouchable.

It seems similar to Foiled Again in his best years and the Open division as he could go the tough trip and still come home and be right there where other horses couldn't and needed the race their way.

It will be a great one and once again the fans are the winners and in for a treat. Hopefully this whole division stays sound (is Mel Mara ok as absent and had last week off?) and we get to see a whole year of this racing. Feeling pumped for a great race!!

It should be interesting , I don't think anyone will be getting a rest :)) . Miller has a huge post advantage

Round 2 clash of the heavy weights. Round 1 Pocono Downs, I believe Wiggle It Jiggleit would have been a slight favourite due to the fact of post position three over six and seven. One other advantage Wiggle It Jiggleit had was he had almost twice the amount of starts which probably made him more fit. Last week's duel between Freaky Feet Pete and Wiggle It Jiggleit was evenly matched, between these two whoever gets the trip wins. On the other hand, Always B Miki, I believe, has one more gear than these two now the post positions are flopped more in his favour having Wiggle It Jiggleit and Freaky Feet Pete to his outside. For these two to try and make front and battle it out looking for the two hole trip to follow Always B Miki when he pulls on these two it will make an interesting race the harder these two battle in front of him, the more exciting this outcome will be. Wiggle It Jiggleit and Freaky Feet Pete are two great horses and enjoy watching them both but they could both be in a world of hurt if Always B Miki gets the jump on them and hangs them out (Another one for the ages, I can't wait).

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