Jason Bartlett is coming home to the Windsor Fair this weekend to “kind of relax.”

Some way to relax. The 31-year-old harness racing driver has drawn 11 horses for Sunday’s 12-race card and will likely draw that many for Labor Day.

It is, however, a break from the seven-day-a-week racing the Windsor native does at Yonkers Raceway and surrounding tracks. This is the first time in three years he’s been able to race on the track he grew up around.

“I’ll have more fun with it,” Bartlett said. “Meet some friends, kind of relax. It’s not the regular grind I’ve been doing. Seven days a week is pretty much what it’s been, some days two tracks.”

Going into Thursday, Bartlett was second in earnings and wins at Yonkers with 201 victories and just over $4 million in earnings. He’s won three track championships in the past but trails leader George Brennan by a substantial margin.

Bartlett, who drove many of the horses owned by his grandfather, Dick, earned his first career win at Windsor when he was a teenager. He’s come a long way since and quickly adapted to the style of harness racing required at Yonkers.

“The style of racing down here is a lot different from what (I was) used to,” he said. “I’m a lot more patient. The track’s different, the horses are better, you can’t make mistakes. Down here you’re racing against the best drivers in the country.”

Bartlett has raced at Yonkers full-time since 2007. In addition to his three track championships, he was selected to participate in the World Driving championships in 2009 and, in 2010, he was a recipient of the Thurman Munson Award.

Bartlett has won as many as eight races on a single card this season but calls the highlight of his year “just staying healthy.” Last year, he was sidelined twice, first for a couple of weeks after getting into an automobile accident on the way to a race track. The second time he tore ankle ligaments playing basketball in hopes of getting ready for a men’s league, since for two months in the winter he races only five nights a week. The injury sidelined him for six weeks.

Bartlett played basketball at Erskine Academy and later at Southern Maine Community College where he led the nation in scoring one season. But he can ill afford injuries that cost him that much money.

“I’m all done, retired,” he said of his basketball career.

Windsor Fair race director Bill McFarland thinks Bartlett will draw fans that might not otherwise show up “because he’s so well known locally and he’s a native of Windsor.”

Horses for the $12,000 Windsor Invitational will be drawn today and there’s a good chance Bartlett will drive one of them.

“I’m sure when he’s here an owner is going to want him on his horse,” McFarland said.

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638

[email protected]


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