Christen Me arrives in Harrington

HARRINGTON – After winning 32 of 68 races and earning nearly $2.5 million down under, nine-year old gelding Christen Me has made his way to the states.

Purchased by Rich Poillucci from Massachusetts, Christen Me arrived in Harrington, Delaware last week, where he’ll be trained by local horse trainers Jim King Jr. and Jo Ann Looney-King on their farm.

Christen Me, a gelding by stallion Christian Cullen out of the award-winning broodmare Splendid Dreams, earned New Zealand’s 2015 Horse of the Year and was a star and fan favorite throughout his harness-racing career overseas.

He will be in good hands with Team King.

“Between the two of us, we have well over 100 years’ experience with this,” Jim King Jr. said of he and his wife, Jo Ann Looney-King, and their horse training experience.

Jo Ann Looney-King and Jim King Jr. pose with Christen Me on their farm in Harrington (The Journal/Ben Heck).

The couple currently trains about 40 horses on the farm and own about half of those 40 horses.

Both are locals – King Jr. originally from Milford and Looney-King originally from New Castle County – but spent time away in New Jersey before returning home and buying the farm in Harrington in 2000.

“We both got our license right here and started racing down here,” King Jr. said. “And then we did go away for a while and later came back.”

As fourth generation horse trainers, they are incredibly excited about Christen Me making his Delaware harness-racing debut this summer.

Although he is nine years old, 68 races is relatively few for a horse of that age. King Jr. and Looney-King hope to see Christen Me enjoy success in the Delaware racing circuit.

The Miracle Mile, Auckland Cup, Victoria Cup, Hunter Cup, and Easter Cup are among some of the bigger races won by Christen Me throughout his career. He hit the board a total of 53 times.

The Kings are good friends with the Teagues, a fellow Harrington-area horse family and owner of fan favorite Wiggle It Jiggleit.

“We’ve known them forever. They’re great,” Looney-King said. “We think the world of George and his family. Montrell is a great driver.”

The two families grew up together, so there’s a familiarity between the two. Sometimes the Teagues win, sometimes the Kings win.

In June 2015, a Team King-trained horse — Wakizashi Hanover – defeated Wiggle It Jiggleit in Canada’s million-dollar North America Cup. It was the first loss for previously-undefeated Wiggle It Jiggleit.

“When we defeated Wiggle It Jiggleit for a million dollars, that makes George get half as much money and he was still happy for us,” King Jr. said. “It’s very friendly. We’re rooting for them all the time.”

The addition of Christen Me this racing season will be great for competition and is bound to put more fans in the stands.

While they are still working out a racing schedule for him, the Kings already know who will likely be the primary driver for Christen Me once he hits the track: Tim Tetrick.

Christen Me grazes the fields at his new home in Harrington, Delaware (The Journal/Ben Heck).

“We primarily use Tim Tetrick,” King Jr. said. “I think we work well together, we get along really well. When he’s not around, we also have Victor Kirby, who we work with quite a bit as well.”

Christen Me is eligible to race until he’s 14 – as long as he continues to fare well in races – and the Kings hope to train him for the remainder of his racing career.

Although you wouldn’t think his name recognition would stretch from New Zealand all the way to the United States, the Kings say people in this area have been asking them about Christen Me for a while now.

“There’s a lot of people in the business from down under here in the states, so when I see them at Yonkers, Chester, wherever I see, they’re always asking about this horse,” King Jr. said.

Christen Me joins fellow New Zealand horse Nike Franco, a mare, in the King’s stable. Nike Franco has seen some success so far in the states, losing only once.

The first step for Christen Me is to qualify in the United States.

“He’s got to qualify here in the United States,” King Jr. said. “We’re probably about three weeks from that, and then we’ll try to get him started someplace – wherever’s available – that we feel is the best for him. His first stakes race is at Tioga Downs in New York, called the Roll with Joe.”

The Roll with Joe isn’t until August, but Christen Me will be getting in some Delaware races before then once the Kings feel he’s ready to compete.

Sports Editor Ben Heck can be reached at bheck@newszap.com.

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