Day At The Track

Bartlett is a big hit in 'Big Apple' sport

09:54 PM 27 Jan 2010 NZDT
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Jason Bartlett
Jason Bartlett

When it was announced recently that reinsman Jason Bartlett would receive a Thurman Munson Award -along with baseball stars Joba Chamberlain, Lou Piniella and Darryl Strawberry and New York Knicks' guard Chris Duhon - there were even people in the sport of harness racing who thought that the honoree was the Tampa Bay Rays' all-star shortstop of the same name.

Say hello to Jason Bartlett, the two-time driving champion of Yonkers Raceway, and no relation to the standout infielder.

While he may not be able to hit the curveball, Yonkers' Jason Bartlett sure can negotiate the tough curves of the Raceway's historic half-mile oval. While Bartlett's name on the New York sports scene isn't nearly as recognizable as the stars of the mainstream teams, he has achieved superstar status in the standardbred game at New York's hometown track.

Bartlett, a 28-year-old native of Augusta, Maine, has taken the world of harness racing by storm in the past two years. The young reinsman has captured back-to-back Yonkers' driving titles. In the just-concluded 2009 campaign, Bartlett recorded 578 Yonkers wins and more than $9.1 million in purses.

In all, his totals of 720 wins and more than $10.8 million in purses ranked second and fourth respectively, in North America. Along the way, Bartlett traveled to Norway to represent the U.S. in May's World Driving Championship and won his 3,000th career race last August.

Bartlett joins Joba, Piniella, Straw and Duhon when he picks up the Munson hardware this Tuesday night at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Manhattan, an award presented by the AHRC-New York City Foundation. It's the 30th anniversary of the Munson Awards gala, with Thurman's widow, Diana, once again on hand to salute the honorees.

An excellent athlete, Bartlett was an All-American point guard at the University of Southern Maine. The soft-spoken driver is such a big hoops fan, he and his wife, Kristen, named their son Kobe, after the Los Angeles Lakers' all-star guard.

"Jason Bartlett is being recognized with a Thurman Munson Award because he is a great sportsman and a great harness driver. He represented the U.S. in the World Driving Championship, and epitomizes the rebirth of harness racing here at Yonkers Raceway," general manager Bob Galterio said.

"He has always made himself available for all of our charitable missions, including coat and toy drives and other philanthropic efforts.. The AHRC-New York City Foundation's theme for this year's dinner is ‘champions' and Jason is a champion both on and off the track."

The AHRC New York City Foundation is a not-for-profit organization that supports programs enabling children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities to lead richer, more productive lives, including programs of AHRC New York City. AHRC New York City is one of the largest organizations in its field, serving 11,000 children and adults who have intellectual and developmental disabilities, including autism, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injuries and other disabilities.

Frank DRUCKER

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