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Brandon Lee Bartley's life is all horse-power

Sunday, December 4, 2011  By: Duane Ranger
t-size: 12px;">Brandon Lee Bartley has always dreamt of being a harness racing driver. But the 26-year-old Groveport (Ohio) native is also a realist. That's why he sells cars for a living and drives horses part-time.

“Maybe when the slots are firmly established in Ohio I will give away my car sales job for a driving career. My number one love is harness racing but I can make a lot more money selling cars and at this stage of my life I need a steady income,” Bartley told Harnesslink.

The Bartley family have been selling cars in Ohio long before Bartley was born. His grandfather Roger and father Roger Jr have owned several car lots since the 1970s, but in the early 1990s they decided branch out into harness racing.

“They bought a few cheap ones and raced them before transferring stock to the Ronnie Steck stable. Both Bartleys also got their trainer’s licences.

“I was about seven at the time and instantly got hooked on the sport – so much so I studied it every day and became a stats nerd. I knew every world record in every age group division. I also studied every horse and also knew all the breeding.

“I’ve loved being around horses since then and always will. Hopefully one day there will be better opportunities in Ohio to make a decent living from it,” Bartley said.

Bartley drove his first winner at his first attempt at the Morrow County Matinee. He was just 14, two years later he drove his Fair race and then when he was 18 steered home his first pari-mutual winner.

“I'm definitely proud of what I've done with the amount of starts I've had. My overall percentage is pretty good considering I've spent my life behind 50-1 shots, and cheap claimers.

“Horses are my love, but its hard in Ohio to make a living doing horses full time, unless you drive good horses - and a lot of them.

“One day when I’m rich, I’ll be able to do it all full-time again, because there’s nothing more I would rather do than drive horses,” Bartley said.

Bartley has driven 122 winners from 1,042 starters since 2002. His best year was in 2006 when he won 35 races and $79,056.

“That’s when Dad went from car salesman to trainer and I did the opposite working in the car lot during the day and driving his horses at night. It was a great year, I really enjoyed it,” Bartley said. His 26 winners from 120 starters last season was also a year that will stay with him for a while.

“That’s when the credit crunch really kicked in and selling cars was tough so I spent the summer at Thunder Ridge where I got full books of drives every meeting. That’s when I felt like a proper sought after driver for the first time,” Bartley said.

This year Bartley has driven just four winners due to his workload with his daytime job. He’s also trained 39 winners since 2002.

The best of them being the now 6-year-old Island Fantasy pacing mare, Camphor Hanover.

“We paid $2,200 for her at a Canadian Sale and turned her into a $30,000 claimer in quick time. She was a lovely horse to drive and won several races in a row,” Bartley said.

Bartley said he owed all of his success on the track to his father.

“He is the reason for my success and he’s some trainer too. He can turn nillers into really good racehorses. I’ve learnt a lot from Dad and my Grandfathers,” Bartley said.

Outside of harness racing Bartley said he enjoyed sport but admitted that two kinds of horsepower ruled his life.

“Sure I love sport and am a bit fan of The Kentucky University basketball team – but I seldom get much time for anything outside selling cars and working horses.

“My life comprises the car lot in winter and cars and driving horses in the summer. I also support the Cleveland Browns when I get time,” Bartley said.

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