Teague family on pace to harness more honors

DOVER — George Teague Jr. continues to remain humble despite his success as a harness racing owner and trainer.

But what he isn’t humble about is being able to share his success with his family.

“Everyone is involved,” Mr. Teague said. “My son, daughters, everyone. I’ve been a part of this all my life. My mom and dad both worked in a barn. I’m from Virginia, but came here in 1976.”

Some might say he had a humble start.

Hoping for a big win Thursday evening are Wiggle It Jiggleit driver Montrell Teague of Harrington, from left, owner George Teague Jr. of Harrington and co-trainer Clyde Francis. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

Hoping for a big win Thursday evening are Wiggle It Jiggleit driver Montrell Teague of Harrington, from left, owner George Teague Jr. of Harrington and co-trainer Clyde Francis. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

“I grew up in the barn. While most kids were in day care I was in the barn,” he said. “That goes the same for my kids as well.”

Come Thursday, he and the kids expect to be major players in the Matron Stakes for 3-year-old male pacers at Dover Downs.

The early years

As a teen, Mr. Teague’s first job was working for well-known trainer Jim Case.

His most noteworthy horses included a standout pacing mare, Another Fishy, who during the 1990s held the track record for female pacers at Dover Downs.

He gained the national spotlight in 2004 with Rainbow Blue, who earned Horse of the Year honors after winning 20 races in 21 starts and banking $1.19 million — the most ever earned in a single season by a female pacer.

But nothing makes Mr. Teague more proud than watching his son Montrell drive Wiggle It Jiggleit, harness racing’s No. 1-ranked horse in the Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown poll.

The horse has won 19 of he 23 races this year and has earned a North America-leading $1.91 million.

“It made it a lot more fun for me just watching him because he has done a lot of things people don’t get a chance to do,” Mr. Teague said of his son.

“Most people don’t get a chance to drive a potential horse of the year. That’s something that some racers may never achieve and he has a chance to do that at 24.

The hottest horse in the country, Wiggle It Jiggleit, chills with Clyde Francis of Houston, inside Teague Stables near Harrington on Tuesday. With a win at Dover Downs Thursday evening, the pacer will top more than $2 million in earnings. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

The hottest horse in the country, Wiggle It Jiggleit, chills with Clyde Francis of Houston, inside Teague Stables near Harrington on Tuesday. With a win at Dover Downs Thursday evening, the pacer will top more than $2 million in earnings. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

“It’s remarkable.”

Montrell Teague simply wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps.

“I started out early,” he said. “I watched my father growing up and I really gained a great appreciation for it.”

It’s a family affair with his horses as well, as Mr. Teague also owns the mom and dad of Wiggle It Jiggleit.
Wiggle It Jiggleit is the son of stallion Mr. Wiggles out of the mare Mozzi Hanover.

Mr. Teague raced both horses during their careers on the track. Mr Wiggles won the 2009 Hoosier Cup and finished second in the Breeders Crown and Adios. He finished sixth in the 2009 Little Brown Jug.

“Wiggle It Jiggleit’s father was the first horse that Montrell raced,” Mr. Teague said.

Clyde Francis, who helps trains Wiggle It Jiggleit and other horses in the stable is childhood friends with Mr. Teague.

He said it’s great watching everything come full circle.

“We’ve been training with each other for a long time,” Mr. Francis said. “I knew his parents and they migrated North, but I still stayed in Virginia. I had a few horses of my own so I would train with him on the weekends.

“It’s great to see his son mature the way he has as well,” he said. “I remember when his feet could barely touch the cart.

“They’ve continue to stay with it and it’s great watching their progression.”

But Mr. Teague said the road to success wasn’t an easy one.

“I started off poor like everyone else,” Mr. Teague said. “I started off with nothing. I built a good work ethic and had a good talent of training horses and picking them out.”

A winning strategy

He also had a plan.

“I gambled on myself. I always knew that a way to make money in this business was ownership and not training horses for everyone else and that’s how I started doing it.”

Now Mr. Teague is ready to add to his legacy with the success of Wiggle It Jiggleit.

Mike Taylor of Harrington is the groomer of Wiggle It Jiggleit, (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

Mike Taylor of Harrington is the groomer of Wiggle It Jiggleit, (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

“The Teague family are respected horsemen, who carry a tremendous work ethic and are popular members of the community,” said Matt Sparacino, assistant general manager and director of public relations for Harrington Raceway & Casino.

“There’s a tremendous buzz in the area each time Wiggle It Jiggleit races. I’d argue what he’s accomplished this year has been historic, given the long duration of the season and considering he started racing in early winter and is still going strong.”

Mr. Sparacino said he doesn’t know if there’s ever been a 3-year-old horse to do that.

“Most people never have a chance to have a horse-of-the-year nominee, let alone winner (Rainbow Blue, 2004), and now owner George Teague has a legitimate chance at having a second horse win national horse-of-the-year honors,” Mr. Sparacino said.

Wiggle It Jiggleit will have his work cut out for him on Thursday, as the horse will go against two other top 3-year-olds in the $201,900 Matron Stakes at Dover Downs. Thursday’s first race post time is 4:30 p.m.

Wakizashi Hanover, trained by Harrington’s JoAnn Looney King, will leave from post four and Dude’s The Man, owned by Delaware’s Doug and Rosalind Paul and Victoria Dickinson, will start from post two.

But Mr. Teague is up to the challenge.

“We’re going up against some great horses,” he said. “But I have high expectations of Wiggle It Jiggleit whenever he’s on the track.

“He’s done some remarkable things. He hasn’t disappointed us yet.”

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