January 1 He drove Chapter Seven, the Horse of the Year (also Trotter of the Year) and Captaintreacherous, the Pacer of the Year; in fact he drove the top three finishers in the Trotter of the Year contest voting, and the 1-3 vote-getters on the pacing side. Seven of the 12 divisional award winners gained from his sulky savvy.
He handled four winners on the Breeders Crown championship card and was no worse than fourth in 11 Crown drives, with his horses bankrolling $1,544,850. (And he lost with three highly-regarded charges in Market Share, Captaintreacherous, and Check Me Out)
He is the leading money winning driver in North America for the sixth straight year, at $18.46 million. He is No. 2 in wins, with 666 and trails leader Dave Palone by nine victories.
Yes, Tim Tetrick had a pretty good year in the sulky in 2012 which is why he was an easy 97-33 winner in voting for Driver of the Year in balloting conducted by the U.S. Harness Writers Association. With this nod, Tetrick becomes the first driver to ever earn the accolade three times.
What does he have to say about it all?
"It's a rollercoaster that's going fast, and I'm going to ride it and enjoy it for as long as I can.”
Tetrick was born to race. By the time he was 5, he was riding a tricycle around the home making believe he was a harness racing driver. By 8 or 9 he would jog his father Tom’s horses and fantasize that he was racing against Hall of Fame driver John Campbell and the great Mack Lobell.
Tetrick won his first nonbetting race in 1996 at 14 with Pat Duz Count at the Charleston Fair in Illinois. He scored his first pari-mutuel win in his first race in 1998 with long-shot Hollys Hot Idea at Fairmount Park in Illinois.
By 2004 and 2005, he developed into one of the top drivers in the Midwest. He moved East last year, when he won 677 races and earned $4.6 million.
In 2007, Tetrick reached another level with wins in the $1 million Meadowlands Pace and $1 million Rooney Pace at Yonkers Raceway with Southwind Lynx, and the $750,000 Hambletonian Oaks with Danae. "I just try to give every horse a good shot to win without beating them up," said Tetrick, who books his own drives and never hesitates to take the best horse, even if it means saying no to a trainer who might give him more drives in the future.
Campbell, with the most career earnings of any harness driver, says Tetrick has the talent, dedication and experience that dwarfs most young drivers.
"He grew up with horses and that is a huge edge," Campbell said. "His family was involved with horses. He has trained them and that is an edge to anyone who becomes a driver, but it's a special talent to make horses go and rate them and have a sense of pace. He has that."
The 31-year-old driving phenom grew up on a horse farm in southern Illinois in a family just trying to make it through each day.
"My dad never had good horses," Tetrick said. "We bailed our own hay. We had our own broodmares and did all the farming, like feeding the horses and fixing fences. I can still shoe a horse."
So his line of work is no surprise.
"I get on horses sometimes and they just go," he said. "I don't know where it comes from."
Tetrick clearly has a bond with the animals he guides to victories up and down the East Coast.
Tetrick holds the record for most victories in one season, racking up an amazing 1,189 visits to Victory Lane in 2007. He also claims the single-season mark for driver earnings, with $19,734,781 in 2008 (his “mere” $18.46 million in 2012 gives him his second-best campaign in the money column).
"Phenomenal. I can't even believe it," said Tetrick, a laid-back redhead who looks like a young Ron Howard. "The record numbers, the wins. It is just unheard of."
He consistently burns rubber up and down the New Jersey Turnpike. He has raced day and night at tracks in Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York, averaging more than 13 drives a day.
He normally wakes up at 10 a.m. and leaves his Runnemede home for a trip south to either Dover Downs in Delaware, Harrahs Chester in Chester, Pa., Pocono Downs in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., or Harrington for an afternoon card before heading north to the Meadowlands that same night.
"I just wanted to drive horses," Tetrick said. "I had no plans of breaking records. I remember when I was 16 or 17 and joking I wish I could win 1,000 races in a lifetime, let alone win it in one year. I never dreamed I would break records."
There is absolutely no horizon, no imagining the limits of what Tim Tetrick will achieve in harness racing.
Tim Tetrick will be honored on Sunday, March 3, at the Dan Patch Awards Banquet, the climatic event of Harness Congress VI weekend, to be held at the Westin Beach Resort and Spa in Fort Lauderdale FL. Further information about the banquet, the Congress, and related events is available at www.ushwa.org.