Day At The Track

Team Tritton begins search for US success

09:59 AM 15 May 2020 NZST
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Shane, Lauren and Levi Tritton
Shane, Lauren and Levi Tritton

They're without doubt one of the best-credentialled harness racing partnerships ever to leave Australian shores to try their luck in North America.

But Shane and Lauren Tritton say they're now back on the steepest learning curve of their careers as they prepare for a return to racing in a new continent and a new post-COVID industry phase.

When COVID-19 struck, the husband-and-wife team was forced to fast-forward plans to move their training operation to the United States in March.

But the couple, and their three year old son Levi, have served out their lockdown in the picturesque hamlet of Pine Bush (population approx. 2000) about one hour north of New York City, and Shane says they're now itching to go once racing resumes.

"The Pine Bush training facility is absolutely state-of-the art - it's incredible and, in hindsight, the enforced break has probably been in our favor. It's been a good chance to get settled and our preparations haven't been disrupted at all," Shane said.

"The word around is that it could soon be back to normal after coronavirus so we are very hopeful," he said.

"The horses we brought over here will have to qualify before being eligible to race, so once we get the green light to start up again, we could be at the qualifying trials in a few weeks and we just have to run two minutes to be good to go."

The couple begin the next phase of their training and driving careers with not only impressive CVs, but enthusiasm, a hard work ethic and a few handy horses.

Although the list of Aussie trainers and drivers who have tasted success in the US and Canada is impressive, most experienced their biggest highs in the sport in North America -- there are few who have elected to gamble with a move while they're at the top of the game in Australia.

Shane Tritton holds the record in his home State of New South Wales for the most wins in a season (222), and has won the past three NSW Metropolitan trainers' titles. He dominated in the NSW Hunter region while at Keinbah, winning seven consecutive Newcastle premierships, and the Tritton Team's dominance continued after a move to Menangle in early 2016.

Lauren and Shane Tritton prior to departing from Australia (Ashlea Brennan Photo)

Lauren Tritton is no less accomplished. She blasted onto the scene four years ago, and became the youngest driver in history to drive 500 winners in Australia. She was the first female ever to win the NSW Metropolitan Driver's Title and has more than 900 winners (including more than 100 Group races) to her name.

Shane said Lauren was keen to continue her driving career in the US, although he acknowledged she would take her time to adjust.

"Mostly the other women seem to drive only in amateur races here, which are equivalent to the show races back home. But she'll ease into it and get used to the different style of racing before she starts driving our horses," Shane said.

"She's serious, though! She's ordered a race cart and new helmet and she'll be busting to get amongst it.

"If she can make her mark - and I'm biased, but I'm sure she will - we're bound to see more and more girls competing."

Shane said the couple was thrilled with the quality of the Pine Bush Training facility.

"We have a great barn there, and can also use another that's nearby," he said.

"The barn's been refurbished to double the size of the boxes and we've opened them up more as well, so the horses can see each other.

"The training complex itself has one main track, that's modelled off the Yonkers half mile raceway, and there's also a pool, 12 to 14 horse walkers and lush paddocks.

Trackwork at Pine Bush Training Facility

"It's a great facility, but we're not looking to do big numbers. We've done big teams in the past, up to 94 horses at one stage, before we shifted to Menangle. Then once we were at Menangle we had between 40 and 45 in work.

"But we're aiming here to keep our numbers to 20, because at the end at the end of the day, we are here to make a career and set things up as a family."

Team Tritton selected the pick of the Australian race team for the move, and will be relying on a trio of big guns in Flaming Flutter, Yayas Hot Spot and Salty Robyn to get established.

"We plan to race at Yonkers and Meadowlands, which are both an hour away and it's exciting to look at the opportunities from the different tiers of racing. At Yonkers for example- the races start at $US15k ($A26k) and range up to $US40k ($A72k).

"Those three horses have all raced at the top level and we're hopeful they'll do a job for us here. And we've also brought a few others who are versatile types, so it's exciting times.

"We're certainly encouraging any owners back home to have a look at the opportunities here to send horses over because with the races handicapped on dollars earnt in the past five starts and with the Australian dollar conversion, they certainly kick off on some nice easy marks."

Settling in to their new lives has been made easier by Tritton's father Peter, who's trained successfully in the US after moving about 20 years ago.

"Our move probably started in the pipeline two years ago when we brought Levi over to visit Dad," Shane said.

"We talked about it because we were finding it a bit hard to stay ahead financially in Australia.

"We really didn't know if a move was possible but after putting in an application, we were surprised to get the go-ahead last January-February and then when coronavirus hit, it all just had to be done in a hurry.

"We've found Americans to be very much comfortable in just letting you run your own show, but Dad has been a massive help and he's here to give us a guide when we need it, which has been awesome in finding our feet.

"We naturally think a lot about home because we left my mum and sister, as well as Lauren's parents, her sister and grandparents, who are Lauren's biggest followers. And of course, we left all of our friends behind, but we are still in touch with everyone and we still check all the race results and news."

Hoofnote:

Australasian trainers who have been trail blazers in the US include Brett Pelling, Noel Daley, Kelvin Harrison, Peter Walsh, Chris Ryder, Peter Tritton, Ross Croghan, Richard "Nifty" Norman, Pete Foley, Chris Scicluna, Marty Noonan, Darren Cassar, Ross Wolfenden, Darren McCall, Tahnee Camilleri and Aaron Lambert. DownUnder superstar reinsmen also add to the list, including Andrew McCarthy and Dexter Dunn.

Terry Gange

NewsAlert PR Mildura

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