Todd Trites is no ordinary harness racing driver. In fact to put it bluntly the New Brunswick native is quite a rare breed of horseman. Not many reinsman can win the coveted Frank G. Daniels Memorial Award for the most driving wins in one year in Canada's Maritimes while undertaking a full-time job outside the industry - but that's exactly what Trites did in 2008.
Since 1998 Trites has worked as a leading hand at the ‘Old New Brunswick Power Commission’s’ headquarters in his home town of Fredericton.
From 8am to 4pm he works in the company’s central stores warehouse preparing materials for the region’s linesmen. Then three to four times a week he then gets on the road and travels to compete in night meetings where he fulfils his racing duties.
“Sometimes I don’t get home until two in the morning but it is something my wife (Paula) and I discussed early in our marriage and from day one she has been very supportive of me and my racing career.
“She has been the only woman in my life who really understood me and my passion for horses. I knew early on Paula was the one for me. I have a match made in heaven,” Trites told Harnesslink.
He said having a supportive wife and a daily job outside harness racing took away the pressure on race-night.
“There’s no pressure on me to win and bring the money home because I have a fixed income at the Power Commission. It can be a bit tough on my family at times but they are my life and I always try and spend as much time with my girls as possible.
“We all take our annual holidays around Cup And Saucer time, which is usually in August. That is important,” Penniac-based Trites said.
Trites’ ‘girls’ are Paula and his four daughters – Taylor (14), Samantha (10), Sidney (9) and Stephanie (8).
Trites was born in St John, New Brunswick. His father, the late Paul, always attended the trots when he was young.
“My early memories go back to when Dad bought a mare named Miramichi June at a sale in Moncton when I was just 3-years-old. She went into Winfield (Win) Scott's Stable at the Fredericton Raceway. I remember that she had lost an eye as a yearling before she came to the track. She was a kind and gentle mare and I was allowed to walk into her stall and pat her,” 42-year-old Trites said.
As a youngster Trites received his early lessons in the game from older brother Stephen.
After high school, Stephen decided he'd try his luck at Pompano Park in Florida. He went for a year, and then returned to Nova Scotia Agricultural College to learn how to shoe horses. He returned to Florida in 1988 and spent the next 20 years at Pompano Park as a blacksmith-driver-trainer.”
“I was pretty much under the wing of my brother. At that time, he was training and had a stable of horses. He showed me the ropes and taught me how to jog a horse. I mucked stalls and cleaned gear a long time before I knew where the track was. I was mucking from the time I was seven. I also cleaned and brushed a lot of horses. I was around 10 when I jogged my first horse, Jeff J. He was also the first horse that I trained.”
Trites’ first job was working in a fast food fried chicken takeaway bar before undertaking a business degree at St Thomas University in Fredericton.
“I did one year there but kept yearning for the horses. I soon learnt business studies weren’t for me so I went and worked as a groom in a couple of stables before relocating to Pompano Park,” Trites said.
He was 21 at the time and spent three years working for a couple of trainers including his brother and Dick Hogan.
In 1991, he returned home and started to drive horses from his own public stable at the Fredericton Raceway.
“Dad was my first owner and I had Angels Class and Mac Mor Gentry for him. I remember that I also had horses for Gerald Alexander and Mel Land when I opened my stable. I had up to 11 horses in my stable at one time but I generally had four or five and found it better for me because I could stay on top of things.
“At that time, I was beginning to do some catch-driving for other trainers; I did as much as I could. Big John Davies from Saint John would use me to drive his horses from time to time. We had a trade-off type of thing whereby he would keep a couple of horses for my Dad over the winter and I would drive some of John's horses. He certainly gave me some opportunities to drive when I was starting out.”
But when Trites took on his full-time job at the Power Commission he wound down his training preferring to concentrate solely on catch-driving.
“I still train the odd one if I own them, but these days I’m just too busy and prefer driving anyway,” he said.
From 1992-2010 Trites trained 173 winners and netted $137,239 in purses.
But his driving prowess is what makes this man special.
Even with a fulltime job Trites has managed to rack up 1,741 driving wins since 1991. He’s also placed 2,782 times from his 9,065 career drives and banked $2,666,296.
His best year was in 2008 when he not only won the prestigious Frank G. Daniels Memorial Award for the most driving wins in one year in Canada’s Maritimes, but he also saluted the judge 206 times for $31,588.
This year he has won 31 ($41,081) races from 169 drives.
“I’ve had quite a bit of success in recent years and I’m grateful to all the owners and trainers for putting me on their horses. I think having another job takes the pressure off me as I’m able to relax a little bit more in my races and at the same time giving the horses every possible chance of winning.
“I love the thrill of winning and I hope it never stops,” Trites said.
Trites drives at several tracks throughout the Maritimes and sometimes ventures outside the region when stakes horses allow for it.
He’s a regular at Fredericton, and Exhibition Park, and often gets to Truro Raceway, Inverness and at Red Shores -Summerside Raceway and the Charlottetown Driving Park.
“I’m lucky that I am able get a steady number of drives and I’m happy where my life is at. I might reassess where I drive when my girls get older, but for now I’m just happy to work two jobs and be close to my family,” Trites said.
He regarded winning the Walter Dale Memorial Invitational Pace four times as his career highlight.
“That’s my favorite race and it is being staged again tomorrow – Canada Day (July 1). I’m driving the Eric Wilson trained Joseph Michael and we have drawn six of six. He’s a nice horse and won for me last start at Charlottetown on June 18.”
Asked if he had a favourite horse, Trites replied:
“P H Breakaway. He’s nine now but when he was three he was taking on and beating all the older horses. He gave me a lot of happy memories. I think he is the best horse I have driven.”
Family and harness racing aside, Trites said his other interests included hunting, fishing, and motorcycles.
“I’m an outdoors man and that passion was been passed on to me by my father, who passed away a couple of years ago. I always feel close to Dad when I’m hunting and fishing,” Trites said.
By Duane RANGER (editor)
(1) Todd Trites and Joseph Michael winning the 2011 Cecil Ladner Memorial Final at Red Shores Charlottetown:
(2) Todd Trites and P H Bestman winning the 2010 Exhibition Cup at Truro Raceway:
(3) Todd Trites and Kingofthecastle winning the 2009 Division Of The Donnie and George Turner Memorial Stake at Truro Raceway:
(4) Todd Trites’ home town of Fredericton, Canada: