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-- Ken Weingartner/Harness Racing Communications/USTA
-- Photos by Curtis Salonick photos

After last weekend’s three Ben Franklin Pace eliminations produced two of the three fastest miles in harness racing history on a five-eighths-mile track, horsemen and fans are anticipating an extraordinary encore in Saturday’s $500,000 final at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono.

Five-year-old stallion Always B Miki won his Franklin elimination in 1:47, equaling Sweet Lou’s record for the fastest-ever mile on a five-eighths oval. Freaky Feet Pete followed with a 1:47.1 victory in his elim, setting the record for the fastest mile by a 4-year-old on a five-eighths track.

Prior to those two performances, 2015 Horse of the Year Wiggle It Jiggleit won his Franklin elimination in 1:48.1. Earlier this season, the 4-year-old gelding posted a 1:47.3 triumph on the five-eighths oval at Harrah’s Philadelphia.

The Ben Franklin Pace final is the first-ever meeting of all three horses in the same race. The event is part of Pocono’s Sun Stakes Saturday, which also includes stakes for 3-year-old pacers and trotters.

“As a fan, it’s just tremendous,” said Mitchel Skolnick, who is one of the owners of the Jimmy Takter-trained Always B Miki. “We wait years for horses like this to come along, and to see the three each at his best, it’s special. Hopefully, everyone gets what they’re expecting (on Saturday).”

History’s fastest pacing mile is the 1:46.1 time-trial mark established by Cambest in 1993. The fastest time for a race mile is 1:46.4, which is shared by four horses.

Many people believe the record for a race mile --- if not the time-trial clocking --- could fall in the Franklin final.

“It’s a possibility if it all goes the right way,” said Larry Rheinheimer, who bred Freaky Feet Pete and trains the stallion for his wife Mary Jo and son Marty. “But I don’t worry about that until afterwards. My goal is to be the first one across the finish line. The time? We’ll take that when it comes. I was excited with the (1):47.1 and the 4-year-old record. It will be a good race regardless. I’m excited.”

Wiggle It Jiggleit won his Ben Franklin elimination in a time of 1:48.1.

Added George Teague Jr., who owns the Clyde Francis-trained Wiggle It Jiggleit, “If it’s a night like the other night and the weather is warm with no wind, I think it’s possible they can go (1):46 and a piece or thereabouts. It’s perfect the way it worked out from the other night’s races. They all won, and won in big fashion.

“The buildup for this race is great. There’s a lot of buzz.”

Wiggle It Jiggleit, the No. 1-ranked horse in the current Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown poll, has won eight of 11 races this year. He brings a four-race victory streak to the Franklin final, with his triumphs including the Battle of Lake Erie and Dorothy Mullin Invitational.

A son of Mr Wiggles-Mozzi Hanover, Wiggle It Jiggleit has won 31 of 38 lifetime races and earned $2.63 million. He has finished worse than second only once in his career.

Wiggle It Jiggleit is the Franklin’s 5-2 morning line favorite and will start the race from post No. 3 with driver Montrell Teague, the son of George Teague Jr., in the sulky. Wiggle It Jiggleit won his elimination by 1-1/4 lengths.

“I’m not going to kid you, I’d rather be 1-9 going for $500,000 than have to race those two horses,” the elder Teague said, laughing. “I’d be stupid to say anything differently. But to be a part of this, it’s definitely a lot of fun. I’m excited. I’m all pumped up. I love our chances. I still think we have the best horse in the game. I’m sure the other two think they have the best horse in the game, too. Now it’s prove-it time.”

Always B Miki won his Franklin elimination in 1:47, equaling Sweet Lou’s record for the fastest-ever mile on a five-eighths oval.

Always B Miki, the No. 2-ranked horse in the sport’s poll, has won eight of 10 races since returning to action from injury last October. The son of Always A Virgin-Artstopper has won 22 of 41 career starts and earned $1.31 million. He is owned by Bluewood Stable, Roll The Dice Stable, and Christina Takter.

In his elimination, Always B Miki raced on the outside for much of the mile, but was able to overtake pacesetter Mel Mara at the top of the stretch and pull away for a 3-3/4 length win.

“I don’t think I’ve been more impressed with a horse that I’ve trained than I was with him in that race,” said Jimmy Takter, who will watch Always B Miki and driver David Miller start from post No. 7 in the Franklin final. “I was so proud of him.

“Personally, I think this is probably as exciting a race coming up that there ever was. All the drivers have confidence in their horse. They all think they’re going to win it. All three raced fantastic last weekend; they all looked great. It’s going to be a horserace.”

Freaky Feet Pete posted a 1:47.1 victory in his Franklin elim, setting the record for the fastest mile by a 4-year-old on a five-eighths track.

Freaky Feet Pete, the fourth-ranked horse in harness racing’s Top 10, has won five of six races this year and 29 of 33 lifetime starts. The son of Rockin Image-Skyway Lori has finished worse than third only once in his career and earned $1.22 million.

He won his elimination by 5-3/4 lengths and will start the final from post six with regular driver Trace Tetrick.

“Pete raced good; I was real happy with him,” Rheinheimer said. “He came out of it good, eating good and everything, so we’re ready to go. I think it will be a good race. It’ll probably come down to whoever gets the breaks and the racing luck.”

In addition to the “Big Three,” the Franklin final includes Canada’s 2015 Horse of the Year State Treasurer plus world champions Mel Mara, who defeated Always B Miki earlier this season, and Always At My Place. Add in Shamballa and the 10-horse field features seven horses that have won in 1:48 or faster.

Below is the Ben Franklin field followed by the fields for the remaining stakes Saturday at Pocono:

$500,000 Ben Franklin (Race 11; estimated post time 9:55 p.m.)
1 – Mel Mara – Corey Callahan – Dylan Davis – 6/1
2 – Shamballa – Scott Zeron – Rick Zeron – 8/1
3 – Wiggle It Jiggleit – Montrell Teague – Clyde Francis – 5/2
4 – State Treasurer – Tim Tetrick – Ian Moore – 15/1
5 – Sunfire Blue Chip – Brett Miller – Jimmy Takter – 12/1
6 – Freaky Feet Pete – Trace Tetrick – Larry Rheinheimer – 3/1
7 – Always B Miki – David Miller – Jimmy Takter – 4/1
8 – All Bets Off – Matt Kakaley – Ron Burke – 20/1
9 – Rock N’ Roll World – Jim Morrill Jr. – Ron Burke – 30/1
10 – Always At My Place – Yannick Gingras – Ron Burke – 10/1
Always At My Place starts from the second tier

$300,000 James M. Lynch Memorial (Race 9; estimated post time 9:08 p.m.)
1 – JK Fannie – Jim Morrill Jr. – Nancy Johansson – 10/1
2 – I Said Diamonds – Matt Kakaley – Matias Ruiz – 5/1
3 – Newborn Sassy – Tim Tetrick – Jo Ann Looney-King – 4/1
4 – Lindwood Beachgirl – Yannick Gingras – Mark Steacy – 12/1
5 – Skinny Dipper – Scott Zeron – Ross Croghan – 20/1
6 – Darlinonthebeach – David Miller – Nancy Johansson – 3/1
7 – Pure Country – Brett Miller – Jimmy Takter – 5/2
8 – Blue Moon Stride – Andrew McCarthy – Mark Harder – 6/1
9 – Penpal – Pat Lachance – Pat Lachance – 15/1

$500,000 Max C. Hempt Memorial (Race 10; estimated post time 9:31 p.m.)
1 – More Dragon – Jim Morrill Jr. – Ron Burke – 20/1
2 – Racing Hill – Brett Miller – Tony Alagna – 5/2
3 – Western Fame – George Napolitano Jr. – Jimmy Takter – 12/1
4 – JK Will Power – Yannick Gingras – Ron Burke – 6/1
5 – Talk Show – Scott Zeron – Steve Elliott – 8/1
6 – Boston Red Rocks – Tim Tetrick – Steve Elliott – 5/1
7 – Katies Rocker – David Miller – Jim Campbell – 4/1
8 – Control The Moment – Randy Waples – Brad Maxwell – 7/2
9 – Big Top Hanover – Matt Kakaley – Ron Burke – 15/1

$500,000 Earl Beal Jr. Memorial (Race 12; estimated post time 10:20 p.m.)
1 – Reigning Moni – Scott Zeron – Jimmy Takter – 10/1
2 – Hollywood Highway – John Campbell – Staffan Lind – 15/1
3 – Truemass Volo – Eric Goodell – Douglas Hamilton – 12/1
4 – Dayson – Jim Morrill Jr. – Ron Burke – 3/1
5 – Trolley – Marcus Miller – Erv Miller – 6/1
6 – Brooklyn Hill – David Miller – Jonas Czernyson – 5/1
7 – Southwind Frank – Yannick Gingras – Ron Burke – 5/2
8 – Dice Man – Ake Svanstedt – Ake Svanstedt – 20/1
9 – Bar Hopping – Tim Tetrick – Jimmy Takter – 4/1

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