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A Conversation With Jason Bartlett

Published: March 24, 2011 11:01 am ET

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As one of harness racing’s top drivers, Jason Bartlett is a busy man. He figures to become even busier, and not only because stakes action begins heating up this spring. Bartlett’s wife, Kristen, on Monday gave birth to a baby boy, named Karter. He will join four-year-old Kobe at the Bartlett’s home in Goshen, New York.

Last year, the 29-year-old Bartlett won the driving title at Yonkers Raceway on his way to 571 wins and $9.72 million in purses. He ranked seventh in wins and eighth in earnings in North America. This year, Bartlett has 111 victories and ranks No. 5 in earnings, with $1.39 million.

He has won 3,933 races and $32.87 million in his career.

This summer, Bartlett will represent the United States in the World Driving Championship, a 20-race tournament which will be held in the U.S. for the first time since 1995. Bartlett represented the U.S. in the most recent WDC, which was held in 2009 in Norway, and finished sixth. The tracks hosting races this year will be Chester Racetrack, Tioga Downs, Monticello Raceway, the Meadowlands Racetrack and Yonkers.

Bartlett, who was a standout college basketball player in his native Maine, recently took time to talk to Harness Racing Communications’ Ken Weingartner about his career, the WDC, March Madness and sharing a name with a Major League Baseball star, formerly of the Tampa Bay Rays and now in his first year with the San Diego Padres.


HRC: First of all, congratulations on the baby. Are you ready for another little one running around? JB: I’ve got to be ready for it. (laughs.) He seems really good right now. He wakes up enough to eat, stays up a little bit, and then goes right back to sleep. He’s been perfect so far.

HRC: Yeah, but it’s only been like 24 hours. JB: (laughs.) Correct. I guess I’m just wishing it’s going to be like this all the time.

HRC: How do you think this year is going so far? JB: Everything is going well. Everyone is treating me good. We’re making money, winning races and staying healthy; you can’t ask for more than that.

HRC: You had a really good year at Yonkers last year. What was your favourite moment from last year? JB: I won some big races at Yonkers and I got to travel around with the (sire) stakes races. I’d say probably winning the Levy (with Foiled Again) and the Lady Maud (with Anndrovette) were great moments. I won a sire stakes final (also with Anndrovette). So it was a good year.

HRC: You’re going to be getting Anndrovette back for the Blue Chip Matchmaker series (which begins Friday at Yonkers). How do you like her? JB: She won in (1:) 52.3 there (last August in a New York Sire Stakes division), really easy. But she’s racing against some of the best mares in the country. If she can pace in (1:) 52 or (1:) 53 there, she can be very competitive in the series.

HRC: The World Driving Championship is coming up for you. I know it’s down the road a bit, but are you looking forward to that? JB: Absolutely. It’s an honour to represent the country again. It was a thrill last time and I imagine it’s going to be even better this year because it’s sort of in my backyard. Hopefully, I’ll have a lot of people come out to cheer me on and I’ll have a little luck. It’s definitely going to be exciting. It’s going to be fun.

HRC: Was there a big difference in the way guys drive? JB: It was a lot different. Everybody comes from a different part of the world, and every place is different. But everyone (racing) in this is in the same boat. That’s what makes it interesting. The trainers helped us out a lot when I was over there (in Norway). The trainers would tell you about each horse and what to expect. I’m sure it will be the same over here.

HRC: When you’re driving against the same guys on a regular basis do you get to know their styles pretty well? Can you anticipate what a guy is going to do or does it vary race to race depending on the horse? JB: It varies a little from race to race because you have different horses and different situations, but you know everybody’s style that you drive with every night.

HRC: Do you try to be unpredictable? JB: You can say you like to be unpredictable, but really, you’re probably a little bit predictable. Everyone knows that I’m aggressive and George (Brennan) is aggressive off the gate. Jeff (Gregory) picks his spots more. Stuff like that. Every night that you drive against somebody, you get to know them pretty well.

HRC: How is it racing at Yonkers with the new (1-1/16 mile) distance? JB: It’s a little bit different, but it gives the horses on the outside a little bit of a chance to get in the race. If you want to take a shot from the outside, you can; it gives you the option to get in the race a little easier.

HRC: Do you think it’s a positive? JB: Yeah, I like it. I know the rest of the drivers seem to like it.

HRC: Are you into March Madness given your basketball background? JB: Yeah, but my brackets are all messed up. I don’t even look at it anymore. Louisville and Notre Dame really got me all messed up. I have Ohio State winning the whole thing, but who doesn’t? My Final Four was Ohio State, Notre Dame, I actually had Washington beating UNC, and Pittsburgh. I had Pitt and Ohio State in the final game. My wife didn’t know anything going in, and she’s doing better than me.

HRC: Do you get to watch many games with your schedule? JB: I got to watch all the day games when they first started. I watch some of the NIT, too. I love watching games. I enjoy it a lot.

HRC: Do people ever see your name and get confused because of the other Jason Bartlett, especially with New York being such a baseball town? JB: It’s kind of funny you say that. I went to a restaurant in the city one day and I made reservations for my family. One of the waitresses comes up to me and says, ‘Oh, you’re not Jason Bartlett.’ (laughs.) She was looking for the Rays’ Jason Bartlett. She was a Tampa Bay fan, I guess.

HRC: It would be fun to get the two of you together sometime. JB: That would be pretty cool.


This story courtesy of Harness Racing Communications, a division of the U.S. Trotting Association. For more information, visit ustrotting.com.


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