Trace Tetrick aiming for 13th Hoosier driving title

by James Platz

As Harrah’s Hoosier Park Racing & Casino lifts the curtain on the 2024 harness meet tonight (March 22), Trace Tetrick finds himself in a familiar position: defending leading driver at the Anderson oval. With 160 days slated for the track’s 31st season, Tetrick looks to add a 13th Hoosier driving title to his resume. He has topped the standings in each of the last 10 seasons.

“My main goal when I show up is to be competitive on a nightly basis and be competitive with what I have,” Tetrick said. “I’ve been very fortunate to get to drive some great horses and have some great opportunities. But those only come if you put your head down and you show up every day and you work hard, you’re present and polite.”

Hard work and making the most of the opportunities presented has allowed the reinsman to pile up wins, purses and titles at Hoosier Park. Last season he steered 368 winners over the track’s seven-eighths mile configuration, reaching the winner’s circle at a nearly 22 per cent clip. With a UDRS of .337, Tetrick’s purse earnings topped $4.8 million. Nationally, he ranked fifth in wins with 531, one more than his brother, Tim. He finished the year with over $6.8 million in purses.

Drivers need power to reach the winner’s circle, and Trace is aligned with some of the top outfits racing in Indiana, including defending leading trainer Tyler George and Erv Miller, runner-up in the standings last season.

“You have to be at the right spot at the right time and do your job when you have those opportunities; try to excel at those,” Trace said. “I’ve been fortunate that I have a couple of really good stables to drive for that have a little bit of everything, from claimers to conditioned horses, which helps out a lot. Tyler George has a really good barn that’s very competitive. I drive some for Erv still. Those are good clients to have anywhere you go.”

Those outfits provided Trace with some of his top horses. He piloted Coach Stefanos for Miller, scoring nine wins and hitting the board in 15 of 17 starts. The sophomore pacer was named Indiana Pacer of the Year. He also steered Rollin Rosie, a top Indiana Sires Stakes filly conditioned by George that finished second in the Super Final after winning multiple legs.

Trace picked up his first victory at Hoosier Park in 2006. Two seasons later he collected his first leading driver title, becoming the youngest to do so. Now 37, he has won more races at the track — over 4,200 and counting — than any other driver.

Once the newcomer, Trace — closing in on 7,500 career wins — is now one of the veteran catch drivers competing nightly at the oval. The colony is ever-changing, with many of the current top drivers arriving after he picked up his first title.

“There are a lot of new guys,” he said. “For drivers, the only original guard left is Ricky [Macomber], Mike Peterson was here when I showed up. Doug Rideout is still here. John [DeLong] is new. [Mike] Oosting is new. [Kyle] Wilfong is new. Marvin Luna and Jordan Ross are new. Brandon [Bates] is new. Walter [Haynes] was here when I first came. We have a lot of young guys that are very aggressive and they handle a horse really well.”

This winter, Trace, as he has done the last several years, competed in the Buckeye State. Currently he ranks third in the standings at Miami Valley, with 84 winners and just over $1.1 million in purses. He likes racing in Ohio as the commute from Anderson is reasonable and keeps him close to home.

“It’s great,” he said. “It gives me an opportunity to race two hours from home. I can still sleep in my bed at night and see my family every day. I don’t have to pick up my whole tack and go somewhere all winter. It is a great privilege to have that opportunity.”

Trace begins his title defense tonight with drives in 13 of the 15 races carded on Hoosier Park’s opening night program. He is listed on horses in nine of 13 races on Saturday.

“I’m looking forward to getting back,” he said. “It’s a lot closer than Ohio. I can be at the track in eight minutes compared to two hours. That means a lot. It’s a great place to race and it’s very competitive on a nightly basis. It’s just good to be back home.”

Harrah’s Hoosier Park kicks off live racing today with a 6:15 p.m. first post. Saturday’s program begins at 7 p.m.