04/06/2016 3:07PM

Bergman: Stratton thrust into the spotlight in Levy, Matchmaker

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Mike Lizzi
Jordan Stratton is moving up the earnings leaderboard in 2016 on the power of some strong stock in the Levy and Matchmaker series'.

Three rounds of the Blue Chip Matchmaker and George Morton Levy series have been completed at Yonkers Raceway. There have been some surprises in these aged pacing events for the premier pacers of both sexes. There has been a healthy mix of favorites and longshots in these races, but it’s doubtful that heading into the events anyone would have thought that Jordan Stratton would have more victories than any of the more notable drivers in the events.

That’s right, Jordan Stratton swept the Blue Chip Matchmaker on Friday night capturing all three divisions. He came back on Saturday night and managed to knife his way through traffic, pushing through an imaginary hole at head-stretch and guiding Bit Of A Legend N to an impossible tally.

All told, Jordan Stratton has won nine divisions combined in these two premier events.

Yannick Gingras and Tim Tetrick, two of the sport’s top drivers, routinely come to Yonkers for the Levy and Matchmaker and generally find themselves in plenty of winner’s circle footage. To date, Tetrick has but one victory behind Mach It So and Gingras has actually been shut out.

Stratton has made the most of opportunity and that’s something you have to do in this sport if you are to rise to the top.

For the 28-year-old Stratton, Friday’s natural hat-trick was special.

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“No, I’ve never had a night like that,” Stratton said on Saturday.

Stratton scored with Al Raza N for the third straight time in the series. Only now is the 6-year-old mare starting to get respect at the windows.

Sell A Bit N, one of a host of horses Stratton has driven for trainer Pete Tritton, won for the second time in the series and appears to be coming around.

“I would say the two of them are very close in ability,” said Stratton, playing the role of diplomat as to avoid offending the connections of either horse.

Unfortunately for Stratton, decision time came early and he elected to stick with trainer Peter Tritton, driving For The Ladies N instead of Al Raza N in the seventh race this Friday. David Miller picked up the drive on Al Raza N.

“I would say that Sell A Bit N is a bit more versatile,” Stratton said, who will leave from post four in race six behind the mare.

The two mares’ rise to power in North America is actually an extension of their past as they competed in New Zealand at the top level before being imported.

For Stratton, who did double-duty racing both at Monticello during the day and Yonkers at night back in 2009 and now races primarily at Yonkers, it’s exciting to go to work against the best.

“It’s something to go out there and compete against the best like Brian Sears, George Brennan and Jason Bartlett every night,” said Stratton.

Heading into last Saturday’s races, Stratton knew he had one of the top horses in the Levy in Bit Of A Legend N. The imported son of Bettor’s Delight had caught the eye of horsemen and handicappers alike through his short stay on the continent.

“It’s not easy from the eight hole, but I’ll try to give him a chance,” said Stratton at the time unaware what would come.

“He’s the type of horse that’s a pleasure to drive. He can leave and come first up and when you ask he’ll give you everything,” said Stratton of Bit Of A Legend N.

While the driver thought that he might be able to leave and get a tuck somewhere when the Levy unfolded on Saturday, Stratton had his horse on the gate but so did a few others. When the race started the driver accepted his fate and took back to trail.

What Stratton has learned from countless miles over the half-mile track is the value of position and pace. In this Levy division, the presence of a couple of leavers indicated that the pace would be quick. While he was driving a contender, getting parked the mile could prove more damaging to the horse than sitting last and hoping to get pulled into the race.

As it turned out, the pace was wicked and horses made enough moves to give the closers a chance. Yet on the final turn, while others took wider paths, Stratton stayed on the inside. Late on the final turn there appeared to be absolutely no way for Bit Of A Legend N to continue his winning streak. For one, there were still seven horses in front of him and secondly, there appeared to be not an ounce of room to allow for passage.

Stratton pulled the type of move that many of the leading drivers do on a regular basis. He simply pushed his way out of a box at head-stretch, nudging Mark MacDonald’s charge Sunfire Blue Chip a bit wider in the process. That gave the horse just enough room to begin gaining momentum and Stratton deftly did the rest, arriving at the wire just in time.

Bit Of A Legend’s versatility is a major advantage over the half-mile track but make no mistakes, Stratton’s experience over this particular oval against many of the same drivers on a nightly basis has a lot to do with the recent success.

For the most part, Stratton has stayed firmly planted at Yonkers and though he doesn’t get the top calls all of the time, he has firmly established a place on the roster and has come prepared when teamed with quality horses.

Bit Of A Legend N, Sell A Bit N and Al Raza N were not exactly household names before the series began. Neither was Jordan Stratton. But that’s how quickly the canvas can change in this sport and it’s the type of dynamite that can explode the budding career of a talented driver.

For now Stratton plans to remain anchored at Yonkers.

“I’m looking forward to going to Paris,” said Stratton, a member of the Yonkers team that will compete against French drivers overseas.

Beyond that Stratton wasn’t sure where the horses might take him.

The driver did leave the door slightly ajar about traveling outside of Westchester County with the right horse.

If Bit Of A Legend N continues to do what he did on Saturday night, you have to believe where he goes Jordan Stratton is sure to follow.