03/17/2017 2:10PM

Harness: Trace Tetrick looking forward to Hoosier season

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Derick Giwner
Trace Tetrick has won the most races in the history of Hoosier Park.

Trace Tetrick is the leading driver this year at Miami Valley Raceway in Ohio, but it won’t be long before Tetrick is back home again in Indiana.

The 30-year-old Tetrick calls Hoosier Park in Anderson, Ind., his home. In fact, Tetrick lives only five minutes from the track, where he holds the record for the most career wins (with more than 1,800) and has captured five driving titles (including the past three in a row).

Hoosier Park is scheduled to open its 163-day meet April 1.

“I know the drive to work will be a lot better,” Tetrick said with a laugh, referring to his Miami Valley journey, which is four hours round trip. “I’m very fortunate to have that short commute (to Hoosier). Hoosier is a great place; they put on a great show there. It’s my home track, so it’s always fun to race there.”

Not to say Tetrick isn’t enjoying himself at Miami Valley. Tetrick leads the driver standings there with 93 wins, holding an 11-victory advantage over second-place Kayne Kauffman and a 36-win margin over third-place Tyler Smith.

When Hoosier Park opens, Tetrick will continue to race at Miami Valley on Sundays and Mondays. Miami Valley Raceway concludes its season on May 8.

“I’m having a good run at it,” Tetrick said about his success at Miami Valley. “I can’t complain one bit. I wanted to go there and try to be competitive. It worked out where I got with some really good trainers, like Tyler George and Virgil (Morgan Jr.) and Jim Eaton, who have some really good horses. It’s been really clicking lately.”

Last year, Tetrick set career highs with 478 wins and $5.49 million in purses. He set the single-season record for victories at Hoosier Park with 372, breaking his own mark of 325 established just a year earlier.

Tetrick, a native of Illinois, got his first win as a driver in 2003 and became a regular on the Indiana circuit in 2006. He has won 3,878 races in his career and $38.96 million in purses.

“I’ve been very fortunate,” Tetrick said. “I started driving out here when I was 19. You always hope (for success). Like everyone else, I was trying to get my drives and get my name on the sheet. When I got opportunities, I wanted to do the best I could with them. Things have just kind of worked out.

“It’s just experience. The more you drive, the more you realize that. We can all drive watching the TV, but when you’ve got to get out there and make decisions, it’s always quicker and faster. It just becomes a habit, what to do and when to do it. You try not to take the races home with you, but it’s hard not to because that’s your profession. You’ll watch replays and pick out something and try to learn and improve.”

Five years ago, Tetrick began making his name in Grand Circuit stakes by winning the Oliver Trotting Classic with Upfront Billy at Indiana Downs and an American-National with Our Lucky Chip at Balmoral Park. In 2014, Tetrick won the Jugette at the Delaware County Fair in Ohio with Indiana-bred Color’s A Virgin and upset world champion Sebastian K with Creatine in the Allerage Farms Open Trot at The Red Mile.

In 2015, he won multiple stakes with Freaky Feet Pete, including the Breeders Crown for 3-year-old male pacers. Last year, Freaky Feet Pete was part of the well-documented rivalry with Always B Miki and Wiggle It Jiggleit before being sidelined by injury. Always B Miki went on to be named Horse of the Year and was retired to stallion duty. Wiggle It Jiggleit, a gelding, will return to action this season along with “Pete.”

“We had a lot of good battles with Wiggle and Miki,” Tetrick said. “Just being on the stage with those guys was a highlight. It was big for our sport to have those three top contenders. They might have been three of the best horses we’ve seen in the last decade at one time. If you see how many times they paced in (1):49 or faster, it’s pretty scary. That’s hard to do that many times, and they did it wherever they went.

“You hate to lose good horses for the sport,” he added, referring to Always B Miki’s retirement. “Whether you can beat them or not, you hate to lose the opportunity to watch them again.”

One of the goals this season for Freaky Feet Pete will be to compete in October’s Breeders Crown at Hoosier Park, which is his second home. Marty Rheinheimer, who co-owns Freaky Feet Pete with his mother Mary Jo, has taken over the training of the horse following the passing of his father Larry last September.

“He looks good,” Tetrick said about Freaky Feet Pete. “I think everybody has come together good as a group to make preparations for this year to go back at it again and try to have Pete as good as we can. I know (the Breeders Crown) is one of the goals they have. It would be great to have the Breeders Crown here at home and have Pete be in it with the local fan base.”

In the meantime, Tetrick, who followed his father Tom D. and brothers Tom T. and Tim into harness racing, is looking forward to an enjoyable year at the races.

“My goal is to be competitive on a nightly basis,” Tetrick said. “I want to go out there with a clear head and hope everything works out and do the best I can for the people I’m working for.

“Just being able to drive a lot of different types of horses and getting to drive for people that, when you win or they race really good, they’re excited and happy, that’s always fun for me. That’s the biggest thrill of it. I’ve been able to be very successful over here and won some titles and some stakes races. But the game itself to me is a fun game. It’s a great job to have; that’s the part I love about it.”

-Courtesy of Harness Racing Communications, a division of the U.S. Trotting Association. For more information, please visit www.ustrotting.com