By John Cirillo
Yonkers Raceway-based harness driver Jordan Stratton knows quite a bit about winning races with over 2,000 career victories, but his understanding of diplomacy with France, not so much. The 29-year-old sulky star was in the winner’s circle twice this afternoon to give a Yonkers quintet of drivers a commanding lead over five French counterparts in the inaugural Yonkers vs. France Drivers Cup challenge.
In the first or two divisions raced at 1 ¼ miles with 10 starters, Stratton, driving 23-1 longshot Lily’s Swan Pond, stormed down the stretch to finish in a dead heat for the win with his Yonkers teammate and captain Jason Bartlett, handling the even money favorite Hasty Profitt.
HeadsAreGonna Turn, with Tyler Buter in the bike, was just a neck back in third, giving the Yonkers contingent a sweep of the first three spots in the competition. The race was timed in 2:31:2.
In the second division, Stratton said “au revoir” to the competition from France, not to mention his Yonkers mates, when Cousin Eddie ($7.40) waltzed to a seven and a quarter length victory over the appropriately named Paris Princess N, with Frenchman Pierre Levesque in the sulky. Cousin Eddie, winning his sixth race in eight starts this season, stopped the clock in 2:29:4. Massive Talent with Yonkers’ Dan Dube driving was third.
The final team totals were 85 points for Yonkers (45 + 40), and 47 for France (26 + 21).The point system for one through 10 finishers is as follows: 17/12/9/7/6/5/4/3/2/1.
The two-nation competition, which began today at Empire City Casino’s historic half mile oval, will wrap up with the second round at Vincennes in Paris, France, one race each on Friday, June 24, and Sunday, June 26.
The Drivers’ Cup line-ups: Yonkers Raceway: Jason Bartlett (captain), Tyler Buter, Dan Dube, Pat Lachance and Jordan Stratton.
France:Pierre Vercruysse (captain), Matthieu Abrivard, Nicolas Ensch, Pierre Levesque and Franck Ouvrie.
The competition was developed due to the success of the French-hubbed simulcasting from Yonkers, which has been a big hit in European countries since it was launched in November of 2014. Over $34 million has been wagered on the all-trot-race afternoon cards from Yonkers since the inception.
Stratton threw down the gauntlet for the locals, earning a share of the win in the $18,800 first event before easily winning the second event, raced for a purse of $16,400, with Cousin Eddie.
It was just an honor for me to be asked to participate,” Stratton said. The first trotter (Lily’s Swan Pond) hung a bit late, but at least was able to get there for the dead-heat. The second one (Cousin Eddie) is just very sharp right now. The French drivers are all pros, but they don’t have the small-track experience.”
“This is true,” French captain Pierre Vercruysse said. “There are some half-mile tracks in Europe and we do watch (Yonkers) races when they are simulcast to France, so we learned from that.
Vercruysse, who did have an extended stateside stay earlier in his career, was appreciative of this return visit. “Everyone was very well-received.”