10/27/2016 11:14PM

Breeders Crown: Sky's the limit for Tetrick-driven Huntsville, Walner

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Derick Giwner
Tim Tetrick guided Huntsville to a world record-equaling 1:49 win at the Red Mile.

From 2007 to 2013 driver Tim Tetrick was on top of the Harness Racing world. Horses under his control earned over $120 million during that span as he led North America in earnings in each season. While Tetrick has been replaced at the top of the heap for the last two years by Yannick Gingras, the 35-year-old has renewed horsepower in the form of Huntsville and Walner that could vault him back to the front of the line.

Although sitting $1,074,183 behind Gingras on the earnings leaderboard in 2016, Tetrick will be odds-on to win the $600,000 Breeders Crown events for colts on both the trot and pace at The Meadowlands on Saturday night. In Huntsville he has the co-fastest 2-year-old pacer of all-time, sharing a 1:49 mark with Sweet Lou (2011) and fellow Crown finalist Downbytheseaside. Not to be outdone, Walner is the fastest rookie trotting colt in history, stopping the timer in 1:51 3/5 at the Red Mile in early October.

To have one top 2-year-old with the potential to dominate the following year is phenomenal. To seemingly have the opportunity to drive the winter book favorite for the Hambletonian and top pacing events like the North America Cup and Meadowlands Pace is a dream come true.

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“I did have American Jewel and Heston Blue Chip at 2,” said Tetrick, recalling the top filly pacer and colt, respectively. “They were both really good and ended up being really good at 3, but these are my top two that I’ve had so far.”

Tetrick is no stranger to driving champion 2-year-old colt pacers. In 2012 he guided Captaintreacherous to 8 wins in 10 starts and nearly $1 million in earnings. The duo came back at 3 to dominate the division with over $2 million in earnings and a 16-13-2-0 record.

Huntsville may have a way to go before being mentioned in conversations with Captaintreacherous, but for Tetrick, he’s on the right path.

“He’s close,” said Tetrick on how Huntsville compares to Captaintreacherous. “You can’t knock Captain because he won everything. This horse hasn’t done it yet in his early career, but he is starting to look like a very good horse and has all the signs of a world champion.”

Huntsville owns six wins in nine career starts and has never finished worse than second. The Ray Schnittker-trained homebred son of Somebeachsomewhere-Wild West Show has seemingly improved in every start and is currently riding a five-race winning streak for the ownership group that includes breeders Schnittker and Charles Iannazzo, along with Ted Gewertz and Steve Arnold.

Off his scintillating 1:49 score at the Red Mile on October 8, Huntsville came first-over in his Breeders Crown elimination last week to by more than two lengths in 1:51 3/5, a time hindered by strong winds on a less than ideal evening for racing.

“When I first starting driving him he was a little nervous and could be a little cranky,” said Tetrick about the colt’s progression. “Every start he has gotten better and he’s actually gotten sounder as the year has gone on; most horses don’t do that. He’s also gotten smarter and lets me do what I want to do, which I think makes a horse an even better horse than they are.”

Tetrick explained that the horse even picked up his game to some extent off the world record win. “He was a little wild at Lexington, but they added a mini-bit and tonight you could have dropped the lines and driven him with no handholds; he was super,” said Tetrick on the Crown elimination mile.

Huntsville will start from post three, just to the outside of main rival and fellow record holder Downbytheseaside, a freaky-fast yet sometimes uncontrollable colt also by sire Somebeachsomewhere.

Trainer Brian Brown has tinkered with Downbytheseaside’s equipment, adding a chain and then shortening it to increase driver David Miller’s control prior to the Breeders Crown elimination, but the colt seems to have a mind of his own. That might be the only reason Brown gives Huntsville the nod in Saturday’s Breeders Crown.

“Ray's horse stands out, he's more manageable than mine, but mine's pretty tough so I think we'll be competitive. I think Ray's is the one to beat,” said Brown after watching Downbytheseaside win his elimination by 3-3/4 lengths in 1:51 2/5.

While Huntsville has a clear rival in the 2-year-old colt pace, Walner is in a league of his own despite facing nine foes in the $600,000 freshman colt trot. With just one misstep—a break on September 9 at The Meadowlands—in six career starts and a combined margin of victory in his five wins of 19-1/4 lengths, Walner has dominated his competition in 2016.

Derick Giwner      Tetrick, Linda Toscano are the team behind Walner.

“I still haven’t found the bottom to him yet,” said Tetrick. “I haven’t pulled the (ear) plugs on him yet. Besides his one little mistake, which I’ll take the blame for, and just him being immature, he has tons of talent and I don’t know how fast he can go; we haven’t gotten there yet.”

Walner cruised to an easy 1:53 3/5 win last Saturday (October 22) in his Breeders Crown elimination as his competition was clearly overmatched. The son of Blue Chip Farms stallion Chapter Seven out of the mare Random Destiny will be an overwhelming favorite from post two for trainer Linda Toscano and owner Ken Jacobs. Although winning the Breeders Crown is at the forefront of the team’s goals, all involved admit that the Hambletonian is the primary objective.

“We are looking to be really great at 3,” said Tetrick. “That is where you make the most money, not that this is bad money at all. But to be a great horse you need to win the first Saturday in August. If you break them down now you don’t make August. It is very hard to make it that far and we just have to take it one day at a time.”

For Tetrick, who will also drive serious Breeders Crown contenders in the $500,000 3-year-old colt (Bar Hopping) and filly (Caprice Hill) trots, staying loyal to the same trainers who helped him lead North America in earnings seven straight years has paid off.

“You are only as good as the clientele you drive for,” said Tetrick. “No matter how good of a driver you are, you have to have the power. Some of the people I drive for, my faithfuls, just didn’t have the top ones the last two years. Those years that I was the leading driver, those trainers had a couple of horses that were winning a million dollars and the big races—Captaintreacherous, Check Me Out, Chapter Seven, Market Share, and the list goes on.

“They are the ones that give me the first call on every baby they have. That is why I stay loyal to them. This year (Jimmy) Takter has put me on a few that Yannick (Gingras) has picked off of and they’ve done well. I just take what I can get and every day I’m blessed.”

Tetrick truly is blessed. With a wonderful wife and child, a healthy career, and perhaps the best 2-year-olds in training to guide, the sky is the limit for one of the best drivers in the sport.

[MEADOWLANDS: Watch & Wager on all 12 Breeders Crown Finals this weekend + plenty of video analysis.]