Although Montrell Teague has established himself as one of the top drivers on the Delaware circuit and became a household name after pairing with Wiggle It Jiggleit on a conquest of the Grand Circuit from 2014 to 2016, the young reinsman desired to have more skin in the game than just being a catch driver. Inspired by his father George and driven away from the sales due to rising prices, Teague turned to breeding his own racehorses.
“I’ve got about five broodmares now. I bought two for myself and I bought three off of dad,” Teague said. “I’m getting into that a little more, just trying to own a couple more to make more money than just the five percent from driving.”
Teague’s foray into breeding began with multiple stakes-winning mare Ella Fitz Hanover. A freshman standout in 2004, Ella Fitz Hanover earned a special place in Teague’s heart. However, after the mare failed to produce a star of her own, Teague sought to expand his fledgling broodmare band.
“I fell in love with (Ella Fitz Hanover), so he just gave her to me to breed,” Teague said. “’Ella Fitz’ was the lone broodmare I had, so I went on eharness.com and saw Chausettes Blanche. I raced against her with one of dad’s horses; she was an open mare,” Teague recalled.
Chausettes Blanche, a 32-time winner and earner of $329,250, came with a catch, however. After multiple seasons of trying, the mare’s previous owners were unable to get her in foal. Listed for just $1,000, Teague decided to take a chance on her.
“Dad said, ‘you might as well just try it. We’ve got a bunch of broodmares already, what’s one more,’ ” Teague said. “Out in the field, dad has about 40 broodmares already, so to throw another one out there doesn’t make a whole lot of difference.”
Teague bought the Christian Cullen daughter and immediately took her to Tommy Cugle’s farm with the intent to live-breed her to Mr Wiggles. About a week later, Teague was stunned when he came off the track at Harrington.
“I just came off a horse that won and dad said, ‘congratulations, I’ve got better news, your horse just got in foal,’ ” Teague remembered. “I just couldn’t believe it because they tried two or three years and couldn’t get her in foal. That made my day way more than winning that race.”
Chausettes Blanche produced Goldberg, a bay colt. Although he failed to make an impression early in the breaking process, Goldberg soon stood out from the pack for his desire to work.
“Once we brought him in and started hooking him up, we started noticing that he had more energy than the other ones. Once we got him ready to go out, we couldn’t really put the bridle on him because he would rear up and he wanted to be the first one out of the stall,” Teague explained. “It didn’t tell you that he was going to be a good one, but it just reassured you that he actually loved doing what he did.”
By the time Goldberg was training down at two, Teague knew he had a budding star in his stable. However, an extra boost of confidence from his father provided the encouragement needed to aggressively stake the colt.
“I had been going with him the majority of the time. Dad always knew he was one of the better ones, so we just set him up to sit on the outside and brush right on by and he would always win the training miles,” Teague remembered. “Finally, dad sat behind him and said, ‘you’ve got a great one here. I’ve trained a lot of good horses, but he ranks right up there with them.’ That made staking him up a whole lot easier.
“He’s sat behind a bunch of great ones, Rainbow Blue, 'Wiggles', I can’t even name them all, but to come by after a training mile and say ‘woah, he’s special,’ it just reassures you that we definitely should take a chance staking him up.”
After an impressive qualifying mile in 1:51.3 at the Meadowlands last July, Goldberg won his debut as a 1-20 shot and placed in two stakes before finishing third in an elimination of the Metro Pace. Goldberg’s manners on the racetrack impressed his owner and driver.
“He feels like a classy horse. He’s very playful when he trains down and when he’s jogging, but when he steps out onto the track and he knows he’s suited up to race, he’s all class and he wants to race,” Teague said. “He’s two fingers, he doesn’t really go on any lines. He loves what he does, which is definitely a plus. He definitely reminds me of some of the better horses I’ve driven.”
However, when Teague saw Goldberg in the paddock before the Metro Pace Final, he sensed something was amiss. The energetic colt who dazzled in his training miles and qualifiers appeared to be a shell of his former self.
“He had his head down in the crossties and he just looked like he wasn’t even there. Something was wrong with him,” Teague remembered.
Goldberg scratched sick out of the $685,000 stakes with a fever of 103 degrees and spent the next eight days recovering at Guelph University. After finally shipping home, Teague turned the colt out and shut him down for the year.
Teague was relieved when Goldberg felt like his old self training back at three. The colt qualified a winner at Dover Downs on February 21 and finished third in an overnight at the Meadowlands from post 10 on debut before taking on the Delaware Standardbred Breeders Fund eliminations. Goldberg took the first elimination in 1:53.2 March 21 and finished second to Chillaxin Away a week later in the second leg. Goldberg returned to capture the $100,000 final in gate-to-wire fashion in 1:51.2 on March 4.
“I’ve won the Delaware stakes a couple times, but never with a horse that I own myself. It was going through the wire getting $50,000 instead of $5,000,” Teague said. “In the final, he just put everything together. He was strong out there, he left really strong and carried me through the whole mile. Once I popped the earplugs, he felt like he was supposed to, like he did last year.
“It just puts everything into perspective of how much work we do put into these horses,” Teague continued. “Seeing him born, to breaking him as a yearling, to training him down as a two-year-old, and finally bringing him back for three-year-old stakes and you have to pay a lot in entry fees to stake him. You definitely see where your money is going and it’s definitely gratifying when you win a $100,000 race and he pays you back for all the work. It made everything perfect.”
Off a pair of third-place finishes at The Meadowlands that boosted his earnings to $101,150, Goldberg will set his sights on the $300,000 Art Rooney Pace at Yonkers Raceway on May 25. Goldberg drew post one in the first $40,000 elimination Saturday night (May 18) and is the 5-2 second choice on the morning line. Brian Brown’s Air Force Hanover is 7-5 off a 1:50.1 victory in the Pennsylvania All Stars Series while Captain Malicious is 3-1 from post three. Buddy Hill, Price Hanover, and Melanies Teddy complete the sextet.
“It looks like it sets up pretty good,” Teague said. “You can’t beat drawing the rail at Yonkers. It’s definitely a perfect position. Couldn’t be more happy with him. I put him in at The Meadowlands and he raced good twice and I’ve been giving him a week off between every race, so he should be good.
“Definitely when you have the rail, you have to protect position and be as close as you can. But you only have to beat two horses to get into the final, so that’s definitely going to be the number one thing.”
If Goldberg wins the Rooney Final, it would be a meaningful win for Teague. After Chausettes Blanche tragically passed away with her second foal, Teague hopes Goldberg will honour her memory.
“He’s definitely a very, very special colt to me. The bad thing is that when I bred her back, I lost her baby and I lost her,” Teague said. “Everything was great, and everything was gone, just that fast. One year, you got him, and he looks to be one of the better ones I’ve ever had. You bred her right back to Mr Wiggles hoping for the same thing, but the next time, she was gone.
“He’s the one and only one. He’s the only one I’ve got. I hope that he lives up to his potential and does her proud.”
In addition to the regular $44,000 Open Handicap Pace and Trot, Saturday’s card features two $40,000 eliminations of the Art Rooney Pace and two $20,000 eliminations of the Lismore Pace.
First post time is 6:50 p.m. Yonkers Raceway features live harness racing Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights.
(SOA of NY)