Jason Bartlett didn’t know if June 17 was going to be the night. But he was sure hoping it would be.

The driver from Windsor was at 7,996 career wins when he settled in for a day of harness racing at Yonkers Raceway, and his wife and kids were in attendance, just in case he got the four wins he needed for his latest milestone.

As it turned out, everything went the 38-year-old’s way. Bartlett won the four races he needed early in the day, making it to 8,000 in front of the people with whom he most wanted to share the moment.

“That particular night, I didn’t think I could win four races, but I did,” he said. “My wife and kids were there. It was good. They didn’t have to keep coming to the races, with school and everything.”

Bartlett reached 7,000 wins two years ago, and since then has kept compiling landmarks. In addition to the 8,000th win, he also reached $100 million in purse money last fall.

“It’s just another number, really, but you know what? You’re always chasing the next number. That’s the way I always look at it,” he said. “It seems like the closer you get there, the slower it comes, but now I’m on to nine (thousand). We’ll get there as soon as we can.”

Bartlett started his day by winning the pacing opener with Lounatic in 1:55. He then took the third race pace while driving Topville Angelina in 1:54.1, then won the seventh race pace with Passa-Grille Beach in 1:53.1.

One win away from reaching 8,000, Bartlett did it two races later. He guided Charm’s Lil Sis to victory in the ninth race pace in 1:54.1, then got to celebrate with his family in the winner’s circle.

“I drive horses for a living, and winning races, I’m paid to do that,” he said. “Obviously you want to get there as quick as you can, because if you get there as quick as you can you’ve won some races and you’ve earned a lot of money and you’re doing your job.”

Bartlett was also happy to reach the number at Yonkers, which has become his home base, and where it’s not easy to rack up wins.

“It’s a huge learning curve, at first, when you get down here. Everything’s going so much faster,” he said. “Not only the speed of the races, but making different moves in races and knowing other people and how they drive. You’re driving against the best harness drivers in the world.”

He’s hoping to make it back up to his hometown for the Windsor Fair, which runs from Aug. 25-Sept. 2, but it’ll depend on a schedule that is constantly changing.

“I always try to point toward Windsor, to go up there and drive and see family and friends, but a lot of times I don’t know that until a week beforehand,” he said. “We do have our schedules out, but you don’t know who’s going to call you to go where. It’s always a last-minute thing for me.”

Keeping a busy schedule is how he’s been able to reach 8,000 wins, after all. Now 9,000 is the target, and — who knows? — perhaps even 10,000.

“You can’t get complacent with what you’re doing because there’s always somebody else trying to make it where I am,” he said. “You’ve always got to keep pushing and keep going.”


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