“He’s a small horse, and we’ve given him a big job,” King said.
And the 4-year-old pacer is doing his job in every way possible, as King added, “He’s meeting all expectations, and more.”
As he readies for Saturday’s $471,100 William R. Haughton Memorial, with a field of male pacers ages 4 and older at The Meadowlands, Donttellmeagain is a horse that captures the imagination. Everybody loves an underdog, and one look at “the little engine that could,” as driver Tim Tetrick refers to him, makes people want to root for him.
The gelded son of Dragon Again out of Donttellmewhattodo, Donttellmeagain has won 15 of his 26 career starts. This season he has won two of six starts and is coming off a victory in the $250,000 Graduate Series final, restricted to only 4-year-olds, July 7 at The Meadowlands.
“He’s a little guy and he’s pretty personable, he’s a friendly little fellow,” King said. “Every time he goes to the track he shows up (to race). He never explodes out of the gate or anything like that. This last race, it was so out of character. All he’s ever done was just run them down. Just point him toward them and he can just keep going. He’s a come-from-behinder.”
In the Graduate final, Donttellmeagain moved from fourth to first on the backstretch after the first quarter; then saw Miso Fast charge to the lead. The two raced 1-2 before Donttellmeagain came through in the stretch to win by a neck.
“Timmy just did what he needed to do, it was one of the most masterful drives I’ve ever seen in my life,” King said. “The race didn’t play out anything the way it went down on paper. For him to be able to do things different and change the plan and overcome and do things he’s never done before was all really good.
“We were expecting to be in a position to be second- or third-over, hopefully second-over, it just didn’t work out that way. For him to get away fourth and be sitting there behind a 95-1 shot, and to move up with Miso Fast, you’re looking at a whole different outcome. Timmy won the race. He gave him the opportunity to win the race.”
It marked the 24th time Donttellmeagain has finished in the money and pushed his career earnings to $426,460.
It’s the classic cliché of the size of heart making up for lack of physical size.
“It’s all determination,” King said. “It’s his will to win, it is just something they’re born with. He’s the kind you dream of getting ahold of. No matter what I do he’s going to try to make it right. He’s just a good horse.”
King refused to take much credit, saying there is nothing he can actually do to make up for the horse’s diminutive stature.
“It’s all about him, it’s all about him,” said King, repeating it to make sure there’s no mistake. “We’re trying to be as kind to him as we can because it’s a disadvantage being his size. But his determination makes up for it.”
Donttellmeagain will use that determination to try and meet the challenge of older horses in the Haughton Memorial. The race is an extra one-eighth of a mile, rather than the standard one-mile distance, due to a 12-horse field, which King feels is an advantage.
“I find that to his liking, I know he has the stamina,” the trainer said. “But this time he’s facing the older horses, like he was in the (Ben Franklin Pace) and that’s a different ballgame. I don’t think he’s the caliber of a horse as (Franklin winner) McWicked, who’s just so powerful and seems to get better with age. If we get lucky, we can probably follow him around the track.”
King has been handling Donttellmeagain for Jon and Wendy Paton since he was a 2-year-old. That year the owners decided to race him in the state-bred Pennsylvania Stallion Series while King had suggested he compete up a level in the Pennsylvania Sire Stakes. The horse won all four of his starts in the Stallion Series and, looking back, King admits it was the right move.
“I think it absolutely worked for the better,” he said. “I thought he could go with (the Sire Stakes horses). I’m not sure he was as good as the very top ones, but I don’t know that he wasn’t either. But it ended up that he earned money, won races, and came back to be just a nicer horse, I think.”
As a 3-year-old, Donttellmeagain placed in every start with eight wins, two seconds and four thirds for $169,738 in earnings. He was shut down after Sept. 17.
“That was our plan,” King said. “He’s very micro-managed. He’s got issues so we picked the spots to go with him.”
Whatever issues he has seem to be kept under control by the connections. Donttellmeagain is as placid off the track as he is ferocious on it.
“Any caretaker would like to take care of a horse like him, he’s a real easy keeper,” King said. “When you want him he comes to you all the time. He comes through the door all the time. He’s not one to stay on the gate and command attention. He’s just a real easy horse to be around.”
And just as easy to cheer for those who love the little guy.
The Haughton is part of a card with the $701,830 Meadowlands Pace for 3-year-old pacers, Hambletonian Maturity for 4-year-old trotters, Mistletoe Shalee for 3-year-old female pacers, Golden Girls for older female pacers, two divisions of the Stanley Dancer Memorial for 3-year-old male trotters, two divisions of the Delvin Miller Memorial for 3-year-old female trotters, and two divisions of the Miss Versatility Series for older female trotters.
Seven of the top nine horses in the Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown poll will be in action: No. 1 Hannelore Hanover (Miss Versatility), No. 2 Shartin N (Golden Girls), No. 5 McWicked (Haughton), No. 6 Manchego (Miller), No. 7 Ariana G (Maturity), No. 8 Kissin In The Sand (Mistletoe Shalee), and No. 9 Wolfgang (Dancer).
Following is the field for the William R. Haughton Memorial.
1-Check Six-Joe Bongiorno-Ron Burke-15/1
2-Mach It So-Scott Zeron-Jeff Bamond Jr.-15/1
3-Heaven Rocks A-David Miller-Ross Croghan-8/1
4-Filibuster Hanover-Yannick Gingras-Ron Burke-10/1
5-McWicked-Brian Sears-Casie Coleman-5/2
6-Donttellmeagain-Tim Tetrick-Jim King Jr.-7/2
7-Rockin Ron-Louis Roy-Ron Burke-10/1
8-Sintra-Jody Jamieson-Dave Menary-9/2
9-Boogie Shuffle-Andy Miller-Mark Harder-30/1
10-Dealt A Winner-Brett Miller-Mark Silva-20/1
11-All Bets Off-Matt Kakaley-Ron Burke-10/1
12-Western Fame-Andy McCarthy-Jimmy Takter-15/1
All Bets Off and Western Fame start from the second tier behind the horses in posts No. 1 and No. 2, respectively.