Hightstown, NJ — Cory Stratton will be in the sulky Saturday (March 16) at Meadowlands Racetrack, but it is a seat he plans to take less often as he focuses on building his own training stable.
The 26-year-old Stratton, the younger brother of driver Jordan Stratton, started his barn in 2018 after spending several years helping manage other stables and working for other trainers. He has 10 horses and is based at the Mark Ford Training Center, not far from his Middletown, N.Y., home.
Stratton was the Monticello-Goshen chapter of the U.S. Harness Writers Association’s Amateur Driver of the Year in 2010 and its Rising Star Award winner in 2012. He was driving at Monticello Raceway this year but stopped last month to focus on training.
“I enjoy driving, but it came down to turning down more horses or giving up Monticello,” Stratton said. “I just enjoy training more. I enjoy working with them all week and when they do well you know you’ve accomplished something. It’s nice to see your horses do good.”
Stratton was working for trainer Travis Alexander when he decided to branch out. Another conditioner, Peter Tritton, helped Stratton get started by recommending him to an owner that had asked Tritton to train one of his pacing mares.
“I didn’t want to extend my stable,” Tritton said. “I said (Stratton) would do a really good job. He’s a hard worker. I know he’s got ability. I told people I think he’s worth a chance. He’s young and keen and he does the work himself. It’s always good to help the young people in the sport. I’d recommend him to anyone looking for a trainer.”
The 7-year-old mare sent to Stratton, Best Of Jenna, won eight of 25 races with him last season and has added two more victories this year.
“She’s kind of a nice mare,” said Indiana’s Jacob Graber, who helped his son, Mark, find Best Of Jenna’s new trainer. “She’s had some issues; she’s hard to deal with. I didn’t know Cory from Adam, but (Tritton) told me Cory would do a good job. He told me that if Cory can’t get the job done nobody else will, and he was right. We’re very pleased with Cory. There are other people in my area that notice that too. Cory is a nice guy and his brother Jordan is too. They’re very nice people.”
Stratton credited his dad, Dave, brother Jordan, Tritton and Alexander as influences on his career.
“I was happy working for Travis, it was good to work under him, but everybody wants to be their own boss,” Stratton said. “When the opportunity came up I wasn’t passing it up.
“My dad was a really good trainer so I learned a lot from him. Peter Tritton has helped me out. He is one of my go-tos and he’s a great guy as well. Having Jordan drive for me has definitely helped as well. Without him I wouldn’t be where I am.”
Stratton won 17 of 66 training starts last year and $191,441 in purses. He entered Thursday with five wins in 34 races this season.
“I’d like to keep growing, keep succeeding and doing well,” Stratton said. “Mark Graber is a great owner and he really helped me. Without Peter Tritton and him getting me going again it would have been difficult. They sent me some quality horses.
“Obviously it would be nice to have some stakes horses down the road or some sire stakes. But I’m happy just racing at the big tracks and doing well. I’m hands on, I work with the horses every day. I race them where they can win, in the right conditions. I’m not afraid to ship them around if I have to. If they’re not racing good somewhere, I’m not afraid to take them somewhere else and freshen up their attitude. I’m not afraid to try things.”
Stratton will drive Swift As A Shadow, a horse he co-owns, on Saturday at the Meadowlands. He starts from post 10.
“The horse drew the 10 hole, but he’s been razor sharp,” Stratton said. “He kicks home good, so I’ll hope that the cover flow is good and he’ll sprint home pretty good.”
On Friday (March 15) at the Big M, 5-year-old pacer On Cruise Control makes his second start for Stratton after arriving from Canada. The horse is the 7-2 second choice on the morning line in a GSY Amateur Series event.
“He wasn’t that great in his first start, but he was off a couple weeks,” Stratton said. “He should be all right in there. I don’t see why he can’t do good. It could be a pretty good weekend.”
Regardless of what happens this weekend, Stratton is happy with his career decision.
“I’m loving it,” he said. “I’m enjoying the ride. Hopefully it never ends.”