Sonsam series offers potential promise

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Ted Black

February 13th, 2015

While many standardbred racing fans have often viewed the Meadowlands as the pinnacle of the sport, especially during the summer when it often hosts lucrative major stakes for trotters and pacers of all ages highlighted by the Hambletonian and the Meadowlands Pace, the winter months at the New Jersey one-mile oval often provide talented, yet inexperienced horses to chance to enhance their resumes before the stakes schedule begins.

Each Saturday night in February one of the more interesting series at the Meadowlands is the Sonsam, a race that does not have an age restriction but is limited to those pacers who did not own three parimutel wins or $50,000 in lifetime earnings through December 1, 2014. The opening leg last Saturday attracted a solid group split into two divisions and one of the winners returns this weekend, while the others seek to earn a berth in the final.

Last weekend Wiggle It Jiggleit (Montrell Teague) arrived as the youngest, least-experienced horse in the series. The three-year-old gelded son of Mr Wiggles owned and trained by George Teague, Jr. of Rainbow Blue fame, headed into the Sonsam as the lone sophomore and with only two starts in his career. Wiggle It Jiggleit won his career debut by at Pocono Downs last August 31 by six lengths in 1:51.2 then won his sophomore debut at Dover Downs on Jan. 25 by 12 lengths in 1:52.

With only two starts under his belt, the youngest horse in the field and a driver who is hardly a regular at the Meadowlands, Wiggle It Jiggleit was still backed with some confidence and was sent out as the 9-5 second choice in the field of 10 while Company Man (Tim Tetrick) was the tepid 9-5 favorite. Both would be a factor at one point in the race, but Wiggle It Jiggleit overcame his youthfulness and inexperience to rally second over to score in 1:49.4, the faster of the two Sonsam divisions by a full second.

In the other Sonsam split, Major Uptrend (Yannick Gingras) overcame post position eight to gain command early and then kept 1-2 favorite Rockeyed Optimist (Tetrick) at bay through the lane for a nose score in 1:50.4. Both will head into the second leg of the series with similar credentials - Major Uptrend sports a 2-1-0 slate and $29,000 bankroll from four starts this year for trainer Ron Burke, while Rockeyed Optimist has won twice in three starts and earned over $20,000 for trainer Steve Elliott.

As luck would have it, Major Uptrend and Rockeyed Optimist drew into opposing divisions of the second leg of the Sonsam series, while Wiggle It Jiggleit is taking this week off. Both Major Uptrend and Rockeyed Optimist will be heavily favored in their respective legs, but of the two Rockeyed Optimist appears to have the most potential.

A four-year-old Rocknroll Hanover gelding out of an Artsplace mare, Rockeyed Optimist already boasts two wins this year against older, more seasoned veterans. He prevailed in his seasonal debut by three lengths in 1:50 against the B-2 pacers, then stepped up one week later to edge the B-1 group by a neck in 1:50.2. Both wins came against horses with far more experience. Rockeyed Optimist heads into the second leg of the Sonsam with an 8-3-3 slate and $93,000 bankroll from just 22 lifetime outings. Many of the pacers in the B-2 and B-1 classes make 30-35 starts each year.

While Rockeyed Optimist looks like a cinch in his Sonsam split and appears capable of joining the A-1 ranks and possibly the Free-For-All group at the Meadowlands this spring, Major Uptrend appears vulnerable this week. Twice already in his career he was entered for $20,000 claiming tags, and he just might have his hands full with JK Patriot (David Miller), who was a good third behind Wiggle It Jiggleit despite making two moves in the series opener.