Day At The Track

Stratton ready for Yonkers series action

11:18 AM 15 Mar 2018 NZDT
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Bit of a Legend N, Harness Racing Jordan Stratton, harness racing
Bit Of A Legend made history by going unbeaten in the 2016 Levy.
Mike Lizzi Photo
Jordan Stratton
Geri Schwarz Photo

Jordan Stratton is no stranger to success in the Blue Chip Matchmaker and George Morton Levy Memorial pacing series at Yonkers Raceway and the 30-year-old harness racing driver will have two past champions among his hopefuls when those events get underway this week at Yonkers Raceway.

First up is the Matchmaker, which begins Friday (March 16). Stratton's drives in the series for older female pacers will include Australian-bred defending champion Mackenzie. On Saturday (March 17) in the Levy, for older male pacers, Stratton's drives include New Zealand-bred 2016 winner Bit Of A Legend.

The Matchmaker and Levy both feature five preliminary rounds followed by added-money finals April 21. A horse receives 25 points each time he or she races in the preliminary rounds. Points are also awarded based on finish, with 50 points for a win, 25 for second, 12 for third, eight for fourth, and five for fifth.

"I love the series," said Stratton, who also won the Matchmaker in 2009 with Pancleefandarpels. "You have to race every week almost because of the 25 points, and they're good horses, so it's a hard series. At the same time, you want to have something left for the final, too.

"It's tough, but at the end of it you get to see who the iron horse is."

The opening round of the Matchmaker features four $40,000 divisions. Stratton will drive New Zealand-bred Elliesjet in the first division, New Zealand-bred Sell A Bit in the second, and Mackenzie in the fourth.

Mackenzie and Sell A Bit are trained by Peter Tritton, who also conditions Bit Of A Legend on the Levy side.

Sell A Bit was the runner-up in the 2016 Matchmaker championship, but failed to advance to last year's final. Sell A Bit heads to this season's event with three wins in her past four starts, all in the open handicap for fillies and mares. Mackenzie, who won four of her last five races of 2017, is making her seasonal debut.

The Matchmaker fields also include multiple-award-winners L A Delight and Lady Shadow, 2017 championship runner-up Medusa, millionaires Call Me Queen Be and Regil Elektra, and near-millionaire Safe From Terror, whose brother Foiled Again won two Levy titles.

Saturday's Levy action will be spread over five $50,000 divisions. Bit Of A Legend, who is making his seasonal debut in the fifth division, made history by going unbeaten in the 2016 Levy. He finished fourth in last year's championship, but counted the Molson, Gerrity, and Quillen among his victories.

"The run Bit Of A Legend went on (in 2016) was unbelievable," Stratton said. "I don't know whatever stars aligned, but it seemed like he never got used and he was always pacing forward at the wire. Hopefully he can do it again. He qualified last week and he seems to be really good. I was a hundred percent happy with him."

There is no shortage of big names or familiar faces in the Levy, with defending champion and Dan Patch Award-winner Keystone Velocity leading the group. Others ready for the opening round include stakes-winners such as All Bets Off, Dr J Hanover, Evenin Of Pleasure, Great Vintage, Mach It So, Missile J, Rockin Ron, Somewhere In L A (a half-brother to L A Delight), and Western Fame.

Stratton is the leading driver at Yonkers this year and tops North America with $1.36 million in purses. He finished second to Jason Bartlett in last year's Yonkers standings.

"I think toward the end of last year I was doing really well," said Stratton, who has won 3,505 races in his career. "Now the numbers kind of reflect it a little more. I'm getting excited (for stakes season). Mackenzie is staked and I'll go on the road with her. Hopefully she stays healthy and has some luck on the bigger tracks and that will launch me to the next step."

Ken Weingartner


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