On a recent visit to London, England, I picked up copies of the Racing Post near our hotel daily — a rare treat. I’m a committed online reader but to actually hold a copy of the RP in my hands and dissolve into it over coffee each morning was rapturous. On Saturday, September 27, 2014 the usually studious RP was overcome with emotion about the exploits of a 2 year-old filly with the memorable name of Tiggy Wiggy…..
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Institutions like the Racing Post aren’t given to soppy sentiment, but the feature on Tiggy Wiggy came as close as a respected daily is going to get to it. Her white blazed face exploded from a kaleidoscope of colour on the Post’s cover, under the headline “CATCH ME IF YOU CAN.” No question about it: the Brits had fallen in love again.
The Irish-born daughter of Kodiac (2001), a son of the incomparable Danehill (1987) out of Khelef’s Silver (2006), a granddaughter of another great sire, Green Desert (1983), carries Danzig(1977) on the top and bottom of her pedigree, as well as two other champions — Kris (1971) and the great Sharpen Up (1968), both of whom were also impressive sires. Other names found within Tiggy Wiggy’s first five generations are Nijinsky (1967), Razyana (1981), His Majesty (1968) and his sire, Ribot (1952) and dam, Flower Bowl (1952), also the dam of Graustark (1963) and the champion filly, Bowl of Flowers (1958). As if this weren’t enough, Round Table (1954), Damascus (1964), Sir Ivor (1965) and Buckpasser (1963) appear in Tiggy Wiggy’s fifth generation.
“Bloodedness” seemed to pour into Tiggy Wiggy which may, or may not, explain the talent she has shown in her juvenile season on the turf, running against her own sex as well as the boys. For her trainer, Richard Hannon Jr., learning what makes “The Tig” tick has certainly been interesting. The filly is “hot” in temperament with a tendency to boil over before she even hits the course. Hannon, in his first year at the helm of the stable run by his father, Richard Hannon Sr., has had many years to learn about thoroughbreds and his mastery is evident in turf stars like Toronado, Night of Thunder, Toormore, Olympic Glory and the fabulous Sky Lantern.
Like Tiggy Wiggy, Hannon has a black-type pedigree: not only his father, but also his grandfather, Harry, were both trainers. Hannon Jr. spent time in Australia learning the basics of his trade before returning to England to serve as assistant to Hannon Sr. in what can only be described as a “finishing school” for anyone aspiring to greatness in the sport of flat racing. There’s a kind of special pride in his demeanour when the younger Hannon talks about Tiggy Wiggy because she has truly been his work, unlike other stars of the 160-capacity Herridge And Everlea Racing Stables who were conditioned, at least in part, by his eminent father.
Another ace in The Tig’s camp is jockey, Richard Hughes, or “Hughsie” to his legion of fans. Trainer and jockey are also brothers-in-law. Hughsie has been Britain’s Champion Flat Racing Jockey for the last three years in a row, beginning in 2011, but his life story contains its fair share of ups & downs, most recently a battle with alcoholism that very nearly cost him everything — from losing his family to severely compromising his career. It’s easy to forget that being a jockey is a stressful, demanding and dangerous job, since the great ones like Hughes make it seem so simple. This real-time footage of Hughes aboard Night of Thunder winning the Scott Dobson Memorial Doncaster Stakes in October of 2013 gives viewers a sense of what a jockey’s job is all about — and Night of Thunder is easy to pilot:
Tiggy Wiggy was purchased for the modest sum of 41,000 GBP ( or just over $64,000 USD) before her owners, Potensis Ltd. and their various partners sent her on to Hannon. Interviewed early in January 2014, in what would be his first year of taking on the mantle of Hannon Sr., his “wish list” for the coming year included no mention of Tiggy Wiggy which seems to indicate that, at least initially, the filly did little to impress him. What The Tig did do, however, was show just how spirited she could be, with the eventual result that she was turned over to former jockey and trainer, Maurice Ahern, for her works. Ahern, as a beaming Hannon pointed out after The Tig’s win at Lowther, knew how to handle her, working her away from the other horses and riding her “long-legged” rather than high in the stirrups, since anything resembling a race day gets the filly so excited that working her proves to be a battle of wills. And on race day, as all have learned, if the tiny whirlwind does not act up in the paddock there’s probably something not quite right with her. All we can do is observe that her fiery temperament, together with the blaze that runs over one nostril, conjures up memories of Canada’s Northern Dancer, who figures profusely in her pedigree.
However, by the time her juvenile season was half-way through, everything about Tiggy Wiggy met with the adoration of her public, from trying to toss her jockey in the paddock to charging for the finish line. And what made her even more delightful was just how courageous she showed herself to be. Not once or twice, but in all of her eight starts in 2013-2014 — a hugely respectable campaign for a diminutive baby still learning the ropes.
She won her maiden at first asking over polytrack by seven lengths and returned five weeks later to win again on the turf at Salisbury, beating Excentricity by 1.5 lengths, having led the whole way. Moved up in class for the Listed Marygate Stakes at York, Tiggy Wiggy went down to defeat at the hands of a Welsh-trained filly, Patience Alexander. It was at this point that Richard Hughes took over from jockey Sean Levey, piloting The Tig to a win at Sandown Park in May against colts in the Listed National Stakes, run at a distance of just over 5 f, her longest race to date. Then it was off to Royal Ascot:
For both Hannon and Hughes, Day Two at Ascot proved a success but their little filly went down to Anthem Alexander in the Queen Mary Stakes, although she battled from start to finish, losing by a short neck at the wire. In July at Newbury, Tiggy Wiggy flew out of the gate so quickly that Hughsie confided “…she nearly gave me a facelift.” After the win, by some six lengths in mixed company carrying the prohibitive weight of 127 lbs., Hughsie added, “.. she covers so much ground for a small filly and quickened really well… she nearly lies down when she quickens. She’s very talented and very fast.”(Daily Mail)
In August, however, the shoe was on the other foot for Anthem Alexander in the Lowther Stakes, where the game Tiggy led the whole way and set a new track record.
Please follow the link to see the race (top of the page after a short ad), as well as an interview with trainer Richard Hannon. Superior footage showing The Tig beating old foes Anthem Alexander and Patience Alexander, as well as another very good filly in Cursory Glance:
Which takes us back to where we began, settled over the Racing Post at breakfast in London, reading Richard Birch’s piece about a gallant filly who was about to run in her first Group 1, the Connolly’s Red Mills Cheveley Park Stakes. Birch predicted that The Tig would “…raise the Newmarket roof this afternoon if she manages to clinch a sixth win from eight starts.” Other memorable phrases included: “Racegoers have taken this pocket rocket to their hearts…” or “It is no exaggeration to say that at Newbury and York you simply knew that she had won two furlongs out…” or ” The manner in which she finishes her races — head bowed low in splendidly determined fashion — is a sight to savour…”
Words of love to be sure. But then how could you not love a little filly who always tries her hardest? Who always shows up and battles to the finish as though her very life depended on it? But Tiggy Wiggy would need to be at her very best that afternoon in September, even though she was coming to the end of a long campaign:
And not only did she win her first Group One, but arguably as satisfying for Hannon and Hughes was the fact that The Tig settled beautifully after getting herself quite worked up when forced to wait for Explosive Lady, who refused to load into the gate. This latter augurs well for her three year-old season since it seems to suggest that THE dynamo of 2014 may be starting to mature.
A fairy tale story had come to a close.
In November, Tiggy Wiggy claimed the Cartier Award for Champion Two Year-Old Filly.
The Racing Post, September 27, 2014: “It’s Time To Toast Tiggy and Toby” by Richard Birch
The Newmarket Journal
Racing UK “Tiggy Takes Lowther By Storm”
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