Jamaica Again County Fair Driver Champ

By Mike Paradise

Jamaica Patton has been competing on Illinois County Fair tracks for 21 consecutive years and has driven on the Chicago circuit for the last ten, so he’s been around for a while now.

Yet, the congenial, always on the go Mississippi native is still only 36 years old. He won’t be 37 until November so he has a lot more years in a sulky ahead of him.

Jamaica was honored Wednesday afternoon at Du Quoin State Fair as the 2017 Illinois County Fair Circuit leading driver, an award he also won last year.

Jamaica Patton

Jamaica Patton

On any given day during the summer Patton can be found just about anywhere in our state, going from one County Fair to another in the day time, and then back to a Chicago circuit race track at night or maybe to another County Fair meet in the evening

Plus Jamaica is also a trainer. He’s based in Springfield based stable so his days start off early in the morning and often end late in the evenings.

Does he ever sleep?

“Not a lot,” he answered with a laugh. “I get what I can on the road but I love what I’m doing. It’s something that I always wanted to do. I’ve been around horses since I was a kid.

Jamaica Oatton was awarded a plaque at the Du Quoin State Fair honoring him as the 2017 Illinois Country County Fair leading driver by the IHHA's Tony Somone, Mike Knicley and Brenda Watson. (Photo courtesy of Josh Carter)

Jamaica Oatton was awarded a plaque at the Du Quoin State Fair honoring him as the 2017 Illinois Country County Fair leading driver by the IHHA’s Tony Somone, Mike Knicley and Brenda Watson. (Photo courtesy of Josh Carter)

Jamaica started jogging horses before he was a teenager and received his amateur driver’s license at age 16.

His grandfather is Freddie Patton Sr., a long time harness horseman who is still training horses at the age of 76. And Jamaica sometimes finds himself in a horse race pitted against his uncle Freddie Patton Jr. who is having another successful year of racing in Illinois.

Jamaica pulled off one of the early surprises at the Du Quoin meet when he steered the Shawn Nessa Stable’s 19-1 longshot Party Belle to her victory in the $31,000 Director’s Award stake for freshman pacing fillies, beating both Violet champion Rollin Coal and Incredible Tillie stake series winner Lex Two.

“It was the third time I drove her. When I drove her at Springfield she was just okay. I got a good trip with her at Du Quoin and when I tipped her out she finished really good. She trains at Du Quoin so maybe that had something to do with her finishing better.”

Driving an upset winner in a major ICF stake race is nothing new for Jamaica.

With demise of Balmoral Park, Super Night is in our rear-view mirror. Nevertheless Jamaica can always boast of driving two of its past champions, both in the 3-yrar-old filly Lady Ann Reed Trot: Herman Wheeler’s 40-1 longshot My Birthday in 2008 and the Joe Mullins’ Maplegrove Shaelyn in 2011.

Hawthorne’s Night of Champions is now the “Super Night” of racing in Illinois and when that showcase of Illinois bred horses comes around on Saturday September 23 you can count on Jamaica motoring in from his home in Springfield and perhaps leaving with another memorable victory on his growing list of achievements.

A Risk Worth Taking: The assigned outside 9-slot didn’t prove to be much of a handicap to A Bettor’s Risk (Kyle Wilfong). The Payton Ode trained 4-year-old gelding came from far out of it and chalked up his third Open Pace victory of the Hawthorne meet last time with a career fastest mile of 1:51.1.

Wilfong settled A Bettor’s Risk into seventh in the early going as first Aimo Hanover took the field to a 27.1 first quarter and then Coal Hanover shot to the front on the backside and had command at the 55.3 half.

A Bettor’s Risk ($7.00) then followed up the 3-2 favorite Trashytonguetalker who got the lead past the midway point of the lane but couldn’t hold off the fast closing winner owned by Robert Hamather of Ontario, Canada.

Hash-Tag Swag, at 19-1, came on to edge Trashytonguetalker for the second place money of the $13,500 purse. A Bettor’s Risk’s victory put him over the $100,000 mark career earnings and at $67,665 for this season.

A Bettor’s Risk was one of three winners on the Friday card for Wilfong.