Stratton says "Legend" not used that hard in prelims
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We're not condoning identity theft, but c'mon, which one of the other 4,247 currently-licensed U-S harness drivers wouldn't change places with Jordan Stratton this Saturday night?
That's because Stratton has better-than-legitimate shots to win both of Yonkers Raceway's series finals, the $609,000 George Morton Levy Memorial and $309,800 Blue Chip Matchmaker. These are the sport's two richest races of the season to date.
Since we believe in ladies first, let's begin with the seventh race (approximate post time 9:10 pm) and Sell a Bit N in the Matchmaker. The 6-year-old Down Under daughter of Julius Caesar will wear head No. 4 and leave from post position 3.
After winning legs two and three of the five-week trial period, Sell a Bit N found herself trapped in "No Woman's Land" the last two weeks, shuffled behind the tired and the stopping before finishing third and second, respectively.
"The best thing about her is I can't hurt her feelings," Stratton said. "She's shown more gate speed than we anticipated and she can also take air. It doesn't seem to faze her. With the draw, I'm expecting we're near the front Saturday."
The 28-year-old Stratton, who won the inaugural Matchmaker in 2009 with Pancleefandarpels, tries for his first Levy (ninth race, approx. post 9:50 PM) with another Kiwi expatriate, Bit Of A Legend N.
Both of Stratton's charges are owned by Harry von Knoblauch and trained by Aussie Peter Tritton.
Bit Of A Legend N, a 7-year-old Down Under son of Bettor's Delight, completed a perfect (5-for-5) prelim performance, wrapped by a scintillating dead-heat with reigning Harness Horse of the Year Wiggle It Jiggleit.
"He paced right through the wire," Stratton said of the two-time (ages 2 and 3) Australian Breeders Crown winner.
How consistent has "Legend" been? He's danced the last three dances in exactly 1:51.2. For the season, it's seven wins and a pair of seconds in nine starts ($146,750). In the final, he wears head number 2 and leaves from that same venue.
"The best horse I've ever driven. He's on the small side, which helps here (Yonkers) and he has a good mouth, which helps make very handy," noted Stratton.
"Even though he raced every week in the series, he wasn't used all that hard. He obviously drew well, but I've found the worst thing is to have a game plan before the gate opens, since they never seem to work out."
Asked if he thought about what winning one or both of Saturday's races might do for his career, Stratton was quite level-headed.
"I've learned in this business, it's possible to go from the top to the bottom very fast," he said. "I just try to do the best job I can."
First post for Saturday's 13-race, $1.3 million card is 7:10 PM. (Yonkers)