Three-year-olds take center stage

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Ted Black

June 1st, 2015

While thoroughbred racing fans across the country literally count down the hours until Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner American Pharoah stakes his claim at Triple Crown immortality by running in this Saturday's Belmont Stakes, standardbred racing fans witnessed a bevy of talented three-year-old trotters and pacers compete last weekend at various ovals.

At Hoosier Park in Indiana, perhaps not the spot you would expect to see the sport's leading sophomore, Wiggle It Jiggle It (Montrell Teague) kept his perfect record in tact with a wire-to-wire score in a $75,000 Indiana Sire Stakes final for three-year-old pacing colts. Currently the sport's top rated horse of any age or either gate, Wiggle It Jiggle It lived up to his role as the 1-9 favorite by covering the mile in 1:49.3 over a sloppy track to remain perfect in nine starts this year and 10 overall for owner-trainer George Teague, Jr.

While Wiggle It Jiggle It remained perfect, he was hardly overwhelming. Freaky Feet Pete (Trace Tetrick), last year's champion Indiana-sired two-year-old pacing colt, rallied from midpack and first over to finish second beaten just over a length. Freaky Feet Pete had won his sophomore debut one week earlier in 1:50.3 and was victorious nine times in 10 starts last year and looks capable of competing against open stakes foes at any time this spring or summer. If Wiggle It Jiggle It is the top sophomore pacer in the land then Freaky Feet Pete must be in the top 10.
YonkersThat same night at Yonkers Raceway in New York, In The Arsenal (Brian Sears) brushed to command before the half and then held safe entrymate Betting Exchange (David Miller) to capture the $300,000 Art Rooney Final for three-year-old pacing colts by a head in 1:51.2. In The Arsenal was certainly among the sport's top freshman pacing colts last season and he looks poised for many more major stakes this spring, summer and fall. His entrymate, Betting Exchange, will likely be joining him on many of those ventures.

Several races later on the Saturday card at Yonkers, Purrfect Bags (Victor Kirby) delivered an 11-1 upset in the $120,000 Lismore final for three-year-old filly pacers. Trained by Jim King, Jr. of Just A Jolt fame and accompanied by that one's pilot, Purrfect Bags helped put Delaware owners, trainers, drivers and horses on the map. Wiggle It Jiggle It is also owned, bred and trained by residents of the First State.

That same night at the Meadowlands in New Jersey, the sport's premier one-mile oval offered a quartet of New Jersey Sire Stakes finals for three-year-olds of both gaits and genders for horses pointing for numerous lucrative open stakes, many of which will be contested on that track.

Mission Brief (Yannick Gingras), last year's champion two-year-old filly trotter, notched her second straight win to start the season and her 11th in 15 career tries when she overcame post 10 to gain command early and then hold safe Model Behaviour for a neck score in 1:54.3. Trainer Ron Burke contends the sophomore filly trotter is being pointed for the $1 million Hambletonian against the boys, but through her first two starts of the year Mission Brief, while unbeaten in them, hardly looks like a Hambo horse.

But the same cannot be said for Canepa Hanover (Gingras) who won the $100,000 NJSS final for three-year-old trotting colts by three lengths in 1:51.1, including a 27.1 kicker. Canepa Hanover and French Laundry led a one-two finish in the final for trainer Jimmy Takter - no surprise - and both look poised for the Hambo this summer. Gingras and Takter teamed up to win nearly every major stakes last year with Father Patrick, whose early gallop in the Hambo prevented him from horse of the year consideration.

Among the NJSS pacers, Artspeak (Scott Zeron) continued the stellar start to his sophomore campaign when he overcame a first over journey to score by three lengths in 1:48.4 as Hurrikane Ali faded to fourth. In the sophomore filly final, The Show Returns (John Campbell) posted a 40-1 upset in 1;51 as Stacia Hanover settled for second as the 6-5 second choice while Happiness faded to fourth as the 6-5 favorite.