Meet Driver Jason Dillander
Jason Dillander is in his tenth year as a professional driver and his sixth on the Chicago circuit. The 31-year-old native of Louisville, Kentucky is in the mist of his best season after putting together back-to-back solid campaigns the past two years.
Dillander had 144 dash winners in 2005 and 148 more last season. His horses won $1,235,022 in ’05 and $1,189,536 in ’06 and he’s on a pace to surpass those marks. Heading into the Hawthorne meet Jason had 89 winners and $602491 in purses won, seventh best among the local circuit drivers.
“I started out (in 1998) qualifying horses at Hoosier Park. Then I went to Bluegrass Downs and from there to Fairmount Park. I’ve driven in Ohio, Michigan and Kentucky before I came here,” said Dillander. “I was racing at Hoosier Park and I was driving one horse for (trainer) Dennis Brightwell who did very well. His name was Razzleonhome and I won a stakes race ($87,400 Indiana Sire) with him. (Trainer) Brad Moffitt started shipping some horses to Hoosier and he and Brightwell are friends and that enabled me to get a chance to drive some of Brad’s horses.
“I was going to go home after Hoosier meeting closed for a couple of months until they re-opened but both Brightwell and Moffitt talked me into coming to Chicago to drive a few horses for them. I did and some those horses did pretty well,” continued Jason.
“When I came to Chicago in August of 2002, it was very tough. Everybody was here . . . Tony (Morgan), Andy (Miller), Timmy (Tetrick), and Eric (Ledford). The horses I got to drive were the 12th or 13th choice,” said Jason with a laugh. “But I stuck it out. People got to know me, and things have gotten better and better.
“What I need now is to pick up a stable with a number of race horses and babies that will use me as their No. 1 driver week in and week out. That would give me the security every driver wants. I’ve been helped out by trainers like Todd La Fountaine and John Butenschoen who have given me the opportunity to drive some of their stake horses.”
Is driving at Hawthorne any different than driving on some of the big tracks where Jason has raced?
“Many of us drivers have talked about the difference driving here without a passing lane,” answered Jason. “I don’t really understand why when we first come to Hawthorne there isn’t nearly as much movement. Maybe it’s because there isn’t a passing lane. Some drivers might be afraid to cut you loose because they’re afraid you might stop on them. The less movement tends to see softer first halves.
“Then for some reason after a couple weeks at Hawthorne some of the guys start driving more aggressively in the early going and the fractions isn’t nearly as soft. Maybe it’s just an adjustment period us drivers go through. Whatever the reason I like it at Hawthorne. Even off the softer fractions you can close late. You can be third over and still have a good shot in that race.
Does Jason have any handicapping tips for Hawthorne players?
“There are certain horses that adapt to Hawthorne better than others. Maybe it’s the surface or maybe the factions but whatever the reason some get real good here. Stick with a hot horse. You’ll often see some horses that will run off some good size winning streaks at Hawthorne.”
Dillander is married. Jason and his Heather have one daughter, five-year-old Reece. The Dillander family resides in Crete, IL.