FORT WASHINGTON, MD – Shamballa has clashed with Always B Miki and/or Wiggle It Jiggleit in his six most recent starts, each time finishing behind harness racing’s highly celebrated superstars.
With Always B Miki recently retired and Wiggle It Jiggleit on a much-deserved vacation, Shamballa will assume the starring role in Tuesday evening’s $100,000 Potomac Pace at Rosecroft Raceway.
Trainer Rick Zeron, who owns the 6-year-old gelding in a partnership with Tao Racing, Howard Taylor and Cool Cat Racing, looks forward to participating in the inaugural Potomac Pace but expresses no feelings of frustration over Shamballa’s fate in his last six outings.
“I always looked at it as an honor to have a horse that good to be able to phone a racing secretary up and enter my horse to take on those horses,” Zeron said. “I never ever took it as being frustrating. I looked at it as a challenge as in, ‘Can we beat the big boys today? Or are we going to be second or third best.’”
Of course, it’s not like Shamballa always had to settle for second or third behind Always B Miki and Wiggle It Jiggleit. The son of Somebeachsomewhere, in fact, is the only horse to beat both Always B Miki and Wiggle It Jiggleit in the same race, capturing the $225,000 U.S. Pacing Championship at Meadowlands Aug. 6. The trainer’s son Scott Zeron was at the controls for that day and will drive him once again at Rosecroft.
“The race set up quite well, because Wiggle It Jiggleit went out there with Always B Miki. Miki didn’t back up; he didn’t get in the hole; he wanted the front end and Wiggle It Jiggleit didn’t want to give it to him. So they were fighting, scrapping, pretty good going to the quarter-pole right through to the half,” Rick Zeron recalled. “My son was sitting back about fifth with Shamballa and moved him to the inside going to the half. Freaky Feet Pete came out of the 3 Hole and took a run at Always B Miki on the front end. We just followed him, second over, and halfway down the lane Scott tipped him out and got the jump on Freaky Feet Pete and Always B Miki. Wiggle It Jiggle It at the time was caught in a hole. When Wiggle It Jiggleit broke loose, we were too far gone. We were at the wire.”
Shamballa’s victory over ‘The Big Three’ was a big one but the most memorable race of the year for his trainer was his gelding’s second-place finish at the Red Mile Oct. 9, when Always B Miki beat him by 1 ¼ lengths while pacing the fastest mile in harness racing history with a 1:46 clocking.
“The big race obviously was the U. S. Pacing Championship, but the highlight of the year was when we raced in the Allerage in Kentucky with Always B Miki,” Zeron said. “Wiggle It Jiggleit wasn’t there that week. I told Scott, “You go on out of there. Always B Miki will come and pace around you. See if you can stay with him and try to beat him down the lane. The race went in 1:46 flat and my horse went in 1:46-and-1. We came home in 26-and-1.”
Shamballa has been installed as the 5-2 morning-line favorite in a field of eight pacers that includes Mel Mara, rated second at 3-1 on the strength of back-to-back Open Preferred victories at Yonkers following a third-place finished behind Wiggle It Jiggleit in a $250,000 Yonkers Invitational Oct. 15. Rated third at 4-1 is Mach It So, who finished second in the Nov. 14 $400,000 TVG Pace, in which Always B Miki called it a career on a winning note. Corey Callahan is scheduled to drive Mel Mara, while Tim Tetrick is slated to guide Mach It So.
Tetrick’s younger brother Trace Tetrick has been named to drive Wakizashi Hanover, who is rated at 10-1 but rates consideration looking to an upset victory over Wiggle It Jiggleit in the $1 million North America Cup at Mohawk last year. The 4-year-old gelding, who was subsequently sidelined with a breathing problem that required two surgeries, returned to winning form last time out with an Open Handicap victory at Dover Downs in 1:49.2.
All Bets Off, Keystone Velocity, Split the House and Dealt a Winner round out a well-balanced field.
The Potomac Pace has been carded as the 10th race on a 13-race program with a first-race post time set for 6:40 p.m. Admission and parking are free.