Jason Bartlett won’t know for a couple weeks if he can make it back home for the Windsor Fair.

“Every year we don’t know until a week, week-and-a-half before if my schedule will open up or not,” he said.

Bartlett, one of the top harness racing drivers in the country, carved time out of his busy schedule to return home for two days during last year’s fair and agreed to race one day, as he usually does when his grandfather, Dick Bartlett, has a horse for him.

“I kind of like just going up there and just hanging out. Everyone wants to see me drive,” he said. “(Windsor Fair racing director) Bill McFarland always tells me to bring my colors.”

Bartlett, whose winning roots go back to the late 1990s at his hometown fair, admits to getting a little nostalgic this time of year.

“When the fairs come around, that’s what you miss the most,” he said.

He still follows the Maine harness racing scene when he can but doesn’t have much time to dig up the results starting to trickle in from the Maine fair circuit because he’s traveling New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania to race at least five days a week. He continues to do most of his driving at Yonkers Raceway, where he won his biggest race of the year, the Blue Chip Matchmaker, in April,

Bartlett, who is approaching 6,000 career victories, ranks second in the country in earnings this year with over $5.5 million. His 314 wins are good for seventh overall.

Some of the biggest races of the year remain on his schedule. This Saturday is harness racing’s crown jewel, the Hambletonian, at The Meadowlands Racetrack in East Rutherford, N.J. on Saturday.

After that event, Bartlett will be back at Yonkers for the regular Saturday night program. “That’s a big doubleheader day,” he said.

Bartlett, who lives in Goshen, N.Y., with wife Kristen and sons Kobe, 9, and Karter, 4, will have numerous stakes races and the Yonkers Trot to look forward to after the doubleheader.

In addition, he and other drivers will soon be adjusting to shorter races at Yonkers (the track is moving the finish line up about 100 feet to resolve technical issues and encourage more movement earlier in the mile).

Proud as he is of the season and career he’s having, Bartlett, 34, was even prouder that his oldest son, Kobe, got a chance to play on the basketball court where his father starred for Erskine Academy last month.

“My son was able to go and do a clinic, the Eagles’ Skills Camp, with my basketball coach, Tim Bonsant” he said.

• • •

Gary Mosher is proud of picking up his 6,000th career victory, which came Monday at the Topsham Fair.

Mosher also admits that at 56 years old with nearly 40 years of driving experience, he’s ready to slow down a little bit in the pursuit of No. 7,000.

Mosher, a Whitefield native, went out to eat with family and friends to quietly celebrate the milestone after winning the fourth, fifth and sixth races on Monday’s bill.

“It’s quite a thing. It’s right up there with a couple of (career) highlights,” he said. “In 1977, when I got my first win, I never thought I’d reach 6,000.”

Mosher got that first victory at the Skowhegan Fair aboard Mutiny Brooke as a teenager. He went on to find success quickly at Yonkers Raceway and around the New York circuit before returning to Maine in the 1990s. He’s collected over $25 million in purse winnings in over 36,000 career races.

Win No. 5,000 came at Scarborough Downs in 2008, which is when Mosher initially thought his career would be winding down. “I kind of figured that would be the highlight, but you look up three, four, five years later and you’re getting closer and closer to 6,000,” he said.

Mosher, who lives in Mercer, made a big leap toward another milestone in one day that he considers his career highlight, winning eight of 10 races in one day at Bangor Raceway two years ago, the first driver in Maine to accomplish that feat.

The aches and pains of the job aren’t as easy to overcome as they once were, he said, and that will lead to less racing in the future. But Mosher can’t shake his love of the sport.

“It’s the competitive nature about you. You always want to race. There’s a little bit of money in it. You don’t get rich but there’s money in it. Driving different horses and seeing how they perform keeps you going,” he said.

Mosher will attend the Hambletonian on Saturday, then return to Scarborough on Sunday to drive a horse he co-owns, DC Thunderbolt, in the 3-year-old Kentucky-bred trotter’s debut.

“It’s been a good ride,” he said. “Maybe I can keep pecking away to get to 7,000.”

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33


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