By Ken Weingartner — After weathering what turned out to be an extended storm of injury issues that kept 2015 Horse of the Year Award winner Wiggle It Jiggleit sidelined for nearly three years, George Teague Jr. is looking forward to seeing his 7-year-old pacer continue his comeback attempt in Thursday’s $25,000 open at Dover Downs.
Wiggle It Jiggle will be making his third start this year, but his first since Sept. 30. The gelding finished second in his 2019 debut at the Delaware County Fair in central Ohio on Sept. 19 and third in the open handicap at Harrington Raceway.
Since then, Wiggle It Jiggleit has won twice in qualifiers at Dover, the first in 1:55.1 with a final quarter of :29.3 and the second in 1:54.4 with a final quarter of :27.2.
“He’s doing good,” said Teague, whose George Teague Jr. Inc. shares ownership of Wiggle It Jiggleit with the Teague Racing Partnership LLC. “He was tying up a little bit (leading to his recent time off) and when I got him off that, I qualified him, and he just didn’t fire like I thought he should. It turned out his blood was a little off.
“The last time I qualified him he seemed to be a lot more like himself. Not totally like he was in the past, but I still think it’s just going to take a little while. I’m hoping he can come back to that status, or close to it. He’s going to be fine. We’ll see how it plays out.”
Wiggle It Jiggleit, trained by Clyde Francis, has won 38 of 53 career races and earned $3.91 million. His earnings rank sixth among pacers in North American harness racing history.
“At any time, any horse can come up with injuries; unfortunately, he did,” Teague said. “It didn’t look that bad originally, but one thing turned into another, turned into another, which turned into three years. It is what it is. That was a perfect storm. But every storm blows over.
“He still seems like the horse of old, he really does. He doesn’t seem any less willing to go. Everything is there, we just have to put the speed back into him, and I don’t expect that to come over night. He’s sounder than he’s ever been and looks great physically. We just have to put the work in and see if he can get a little stronger and a little faster.”
Wiggle It Jiggleit is the 5-2 morning-line favorite in Thursday’s open. Jim Morand will drive Wiggle It Jiggleit, subbing for Montrell Teague, who recently suffered a wrist injury that will keep him in a cast until after Christmas.
George Teague Jr. is taking a race-by-race approach with Wiggle It Jiggleit but is hopeful the son of Mr Wiggles-Mozzi Hanover can return to the Grand Circuit in 2020.
“I still think it’s a possibility,” Teague said. “I’m not going to ruin his reputation by putting him in the box when it doesn’t look like he should be in. I’m just trying to get a grip on how I think he’ll come back and whether he gets back to close enough where I think I can invest a little bit of money in staking him.
“I’m not making any definitive plans; I’m just hoping he tells me as we go along. It’s tough to get back to where he needs to be without racing against competition. I can qualify, I can train, but none of it is like racing. When he makes it to a point where I think he’s showed me enough one way or another, then I’ll make my decision there.”
Ken Weingartner is an HRI HARNESS contributor