East Rutherford, N.J. -- Always a champion.
The much-anticipated showdown between the top two harness horses in the world lived up to the hype as Always B Miki forged ahead by three-quarters of a length to upend 2015 Horse of the Year Wiggle It Jiggleit to capture his second straight $421,000 Breeders Crown Open Pace at The Meadowlands.
The 3-5 favorite Always B Miki, driven by David Miller and trained by Jimmy Takter, paid $3.20, 2.10, 2.10 and is the likely choice to take 2016 Horse of The Year honors.
“We saw two great, great horses, fighting side by side down the stretch. To me, it was one of the better races, maybe the best ever had a horse participate in and it was so exciting to see it,” said Takter, who won his 29th Breeders Crown race to date. “When he dug in that little extra, that’s what a champion has. I am so proud of this horse and I’m speechless – what a horse. Two weeks from now (will be his last start in the TVG) and I hope everyone will come back. Everybody should see it, it’s going to be his last appearance here in the TVG, so wonderful to do this on his home track on a cold night like this. Fantastic feeling.”
Wiggle It Jiggleit, with Montrell Teague aboard the 6-5 second choice, paid $2.20, 2.10 for second and Shamballa, with Scott Zeron aboard, paid 2.60 for third.
“Me and Miki have been trading wins and losses back and forth all season,” said Teague, in just his second start in a Breeders Crown race. “One race isn’t going to deter me, I was happy with my horse, it was a big effort. There was a big headwind out there today and the horse got on the left line a little bit but from having all those difficult problems he still put in a game effort.”
Wiggle It Jiggleit stormed to the lead right from the gate and led throughout with Always B Miki right at his heels in second place every step of the way until surging ahead to take the lead right at the wire.
Always B Miki won in fractions of 27.1, 55.1, 1:22.1, and a finishing time of 1:49.
Wiggle It Jiggleit and Always B Miki have met seven times this year with Always B Miki now leading the head-to-head matchup at 4-3.
“I couldn’t be happier with him, he’s a tough horse,” said Miller. “He shows up and he was determined to get his head in front there.”
Since returning to action last fall, Always B Miki has won 15 of 21 races, totaling 29 for his career and became the first horse to win the Open Pace in consecutive years since Bettor Sweet in 2011-12. Always B Miki’s other wins this year include the Ben Franklin Pace, William Haughton Memorial, Jim Ewart Memorial, and Hoosier Pacing Derby.