All eyes on Ohio on Friday evening

Profile Picture: Ted Black

Ted Black

August 14th, 2015

Many harness racing enthusiasts eagerly anticipate the annual renewal of the Little Brown Jug, the famed Triple Crown event for three-year-old colt pacers held each September at the Delaware (OH) County Fair. But this Friday the focus will clearly be on the state's other half-mile oval, Northfield Park. just outside Cleveland.

Friday's 15-race card at Northfield Park is highlighted by the latest edition of the $400,000 Carl Milstein Memorial for three-year-old colt pacers, some of which may return to the Buckeye State next month for the Jug. The Milstein attracted the two best sophomore pacers in the land, although the post position draw may have helped determine the likely favorite and exacta combination.

Wiggle It Jiggleit (Montrell Teague) has emerged as the best three-year-old colt or gelding pacer in the land thanks to his sharp scores in the $500,000 Max Hempt Final at Pocono Downs and the $750,000 Meadowlands Pace final. But last weekend on Hambletonian Day at the Meadowlands he faded to fourth as the 2-5 favorite in the $350,000 Cane Pace, the first leg of pacing's Triple Crown.

This Friday night Wiggle It Jiggleit will look to regain his winning ways - despite the setback last weekend he still boasts 14 wins in 16 starts this year and earnings of over $985,000 - when he will leave from post four as the likely odds-on choice again while facing Wakizashi Hanover (Tim Tetrick), who defeated him in the $1 million North America Cup final at Mohawk Raceway but was burdened with post eight for this year.

Wakizashi Hanover owns a solid 6-2-1 slate and $640,000 bankroll from 10 starts this year for trainer Susan Looney-King, including a victory in the North America Cup and a third-place finish in the Meadowlands Pace. Those looking to cold punch the exacta or even box the tandem might have been swayed by the draw as Wakizashi Hanover got post eight, a dreaded spot on any half-mile oval.

Those looking to split the exacta or perhaps find an upsetter altogether will spot Lost For Words (David Miller) who will start from post three. One of the dominant colts on the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes circuit, Lost For Words was a solid third in the $400,000 Adios two weeks ago at the Meadows near Pittsburgh for trainer Brian Brown and with four wins in eight starts this year and earnings just shy of $180,000 he does loom a serious upset prospect.

While the Milstein is slated as the 11th race on the card, things get interesting early courtesy of a $20,000 Open Handicap for pacers.

Man He Can Skoot (Chris Page) and Santa Fe Beachboy (Ronnie Wrenn, Jr.) have been assigned posts six and seven, respectively, and both will be well backed. Man He Can Skoot has won 10 of 24 starts for trainer Ron Burke and looms the favorite. But railbound Nassau County (Aaron Merriman) is a legitimate upset prospect at a possible generous price of 6-1 or so.

Two races before the Milstein the pacing ladies will be in the spotlight in the $20,000 Open Handicap for fillies and mares. While the older mares usually own the advantage in these events, Purrfect Bags (Tetrick), recent winner of the $100,000 Delaware Standardbred Breeders Fund final for three-year-old filly pacers and an earlier heroin of the $120,000 Lismore final at Yonkers Raceway, is the likely 6-5 favorite from post six.

Purrfect Bags has been very good all season, winning six of eight starts and nearly $150,000 for King, but she will get an acid test against older rivals on Friday. Serious upsetters include Velocity Sonja, Sgt Molly Pitcher and Lease Ness Monster (Wrenn) who was assigned the outside eight slot but will get deserving backing as the second choice.