Tim has accomplished so much in such a short period of time that it is easy to forget he is merely 35 years old.
A native of Illinois, Tetrick already ranks in the top seven in lifetime purses, with $177 million, and top 25 in wins, with more than 9,500. He was the youngest driver to reach 8,000 victories, as well as 7,000, 6,000, 5,000, 4,000, 3,000 and 2,000. In 2007, he set the sport’s single-season record with 1,189 triumphs and became the first driver to lead the sport in both wins and purses in the same season since 1991.
He has been named Driver of the Year four times by the U.S. Harness Writers Association and three times by Harness Tracks of America.
Tetrick has won the Hambletonian Stakes, 18 Breeders Crown titles, 4 Meadowlands Pace Championships and led all drivers in purses from 2007 through 2013.
In 2012, he drove Horse of the Year Chapter Seven and became only the third driver in history to win three million-dollar races in a single year. He also won a record four Breeders Crown races that season.
It all began at a county fair on July 20, 1998 when Tetrick won with Travel’N Legacy, a 3-year-old filly pacer he also trained.
“I never dreamed I would get to do what I did,” Tetrick said. “At that time, that was the biggest win of my career – because it was my only win. It was very special.
“I learned from the bottom up. You’ve got to go clean stalls first and then you start grooming and then you start jogging and then you start training. I did that. We’d go to school and when we got home in the afternoon we had to work. My dad would go race at Fairmount Park and me and my older brother would take care of the horses. We’d get home at 3 and work until past dark. You’ve got to make sure things get done right. I learned how to work. In this business you’ve got to work to be successful.”
Tetrick grew up in a harness racing family, learning the business from his father, Tom D. Tetrick, and mother, Mary Alice. His dad has won more than 1,250 races as a driver and 550 as a trainer.
Older brother Tom T. Tetrick has won more than 300 races as both a driver and trainer. His younger brother Trace is approaching 3,000 wins as a driver and has won several driving titles in Indiana.
Tim’s early days in Illinois provided a perfect learning environment, paving the way to his future successes.
“It was cool for me,” Tetrick said. “I got to start at the bottom and race at the county fairs and help my father out and try to teach young horses to race the right way. At the fairs, in Illinois especially, we could do that. Growing up and learning how to bring a young horse along and race at the fairs was good for me.”
Tetrick’s father remains an instrumental teacher.
“My dad is the toughest critic and the biggest fan that I have,” Tetrick said. “He makes me think about what I can do better all the time. He’s always there for me. He wants the best for me and I appreciate that. He doesn’t get the credit for it, but he was a very good driver. He’s a very good mentor for me.”
Tetrick got his first win at a pari-mutuel racetrack at Fairmount Park in 1999, five days after his 18th birthday. He later spent time racing in Indiana before winning several driving titles on the Chicago circuit in the mid-2000s. In the fall of 2006 he relocated to the East Coast and began his ascent to stardom.
“It wasn’t an easy decision to move, but financially it had to be done,” said Tetrick, who now lives in southern New Jersey with his wife, Ashley. “I go home as much as I can, usually around holidays. I’d like to race in Chicago more often, but some of the major stakes there are always on nights of other big races elsewhere.”
Tetrick is making a habit of winning big-money races, wherever they are held.
“I have to thank all the owners and trainers for giving me such great horses to drive,” said Tetrick, who no longer trains horses to focus solely on driving. “It’s just been an amazing ride.”
It also is a lot of work. When Tetrick set the record for wins in 2007, he drove his truck more than 1,400 miles a week to compete at tracks in Delaware, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. He also made trips to the Midwest and Canada.
He has slowed down some in recent years, but still visited 19 different tracks in 2013.
“I love getting to do what I do every day,” Tetrick said. “It’s a lot of work. People take that for granted. Some days I wish I could have that 9 to 5 job and have the weekends off to spend with my family. But I get so many thrills getting to do what I do.”
One of his biggest thrills came in 2012 when he won the Hambletonian with Market Share.
“This race is a dream come true,” Tetrick said. “I’m just happy to be part of it. I never thought I’d even get to race in the Hambletonian, let alone win it. When I was a kid dreaming of being a driver, I never thought this would ever happen.”
He probably never imagined being the driver of seven divisional champions, either, but accomplished that feat in 2012 as well. In addition to Chapter Seven, Captaintreacherous and Market Share, Tetrick drove division winners Check Me Out (3-year-old female trotter), Heston Blue Chip (3-year-old male pacer), American Jewel (3-year-old female pacer) and Anndrovette (older female pacer).
Tetrick has accomplished all this while dealing with a degenerative hip condition since childhood. He had hip replacement surgery on his right hip in 2008 and on his left hip at the end of 2013.
Despite all the races he has won, records he has set and honors he has earned, Tetrick remains fiercely motivated.
“I want to be the best,” said Tetrick, who garnered the nickname “The Bionic Man” after his first replacement surgery. “I want to drive all the good horses. I want to be the leading driver at every track I go to and make the most money. I like winning races. I just want to win races and have a good career. I just keep looking for that next world champion.”
He believes others can discover the same love of harness racing, even if they are not capable of winning hundreds of races each year.
“I think that if everyone could sit in a jog cart or get behind the gate, this would be one of the best businesses in the world,” Tetrick said. “Me and you, we couldn’t play in the NBA or Major League Baseball, but we can be owners and drive our horses. You might not be good at it, but you can do it. It’s such a great sport in that way, in terms of being able to participate.”
Harness Racing Communications
U.S. Trotting Association