EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) Always B Miki beat Wiggle It Jiggleit at the end of a thrilling stretch battle in the $421,000 Breeders Crown Open Pace on Friday night at the Meadowlands Racetrack.
Their rivalry has been the highlight of the harness racing season with each posting three wins in their previous seven showdowns.
With the Crown victory, Always B Miki likely clinched Horse of the Year honors by edging the defending champion.
The race unfolded with Wiggle It Jiggleit taking the lead on the first turn while Always B Miki dropped in behind him.
They raced in that order until midway on the final turn when driver David Miller sent Always B Miki after the leader.
Turning for home, it appeared Wiggle It Jiggleit would prevail until Always B Miki surged in the final strides to win by three-quarters of a length.
“I couldn’t be happier with him,” Miller said. “He’s a tough horse. He shows up, and he was determined to get his head in front there.”
He paid $3.20 to win. It was the 28th Crown win for trainer Jimmy Takter, the career leader in the series.
It was a satisfying victory for Takter who nursed the horse through multiple serious injuries.
“I am speechless,” Hall of Famer Takter said. “The people here saw two great, great horses fighting side by side down the stretch. For me, it was maybe the best race I ever had a horse participate in.”
The Meadowlands presented the four Crowns for older horses on Friday. The eight events for 2 and 3-year-olds take place Saturday.
In other results, driver Yannick Gingras won a pair of $250,000 Crowns with Hannelore Hanover in the Filly & Mare Open Trot and Lady Shadow in the Filly & Mare Open Pace.
Hannelore Hanover, the 3/5 favorite, beat Bee A Magician, the 2013 Horse of the Year, by two lengths.
It was her 16th win in 19 starts this season for trainer Ron Burke.
The time was 1:53 3/5 for the mile. She paid $3.40 to win.
Lady Shadow, the 1/5 choice, beat Sassa Hanover by 2 1/4 lengths for her 11th win in 19 starts this year.
She paid $2.40 to win.
In the only upset, 4-1 shot Flanagan Memory beat Resolve, the 1/5 favorite, by a length in the $500,000 Open Trot.
Brian Sears was at the lines for trainer Rene Dion as the 6-year-old paid $10.60 to win.