Day At The Track

Weathering (snow) storms with a smile

06:48 AM 28 Jan 2021 NZDT
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Lauren, Shane and Levi Tritton
The snow’s on but Lauren, Shane and Levi Tritton are loving the experience

Ex-pat Aussie harness racing couple Shane and Lauren Tritton hadn't seen a lot of snow before a life-changing move to the USA last year - but that's all changed now!

"Both of us went on the usual school trips to the snowfields-and that was about it!" Shane said.

But it's winter in America and that can mean extremely cold weather and big snowfalls.

The Tritton duo is based at a training centre about one hour and 45 minutes from New York City, at Pine Bush, an area where the average is about 45 inches of snow per year - and this week saw a nice "dump".

"It can present some challenges with training the horses, but no way do we dread getting out in it. We look at it as more of an experience," Shane said.

"Halfway through this morning it started snowing and didn't stop. I think we got four inches, but it was a cold day with the top temperature being minus four. It was down to minus 15 at one stage.

"It's definitely different. We've found you have to get rugged up and just be patient. The work crew at the training centre clear the snow from the tracks so we can keep going."

Shane said the colder months presented trainers with a little uncertainty in that "you don't know exactly how the horses are feeling".

"It's way more difficult than any other times. By the way the horses act and behave in the warmer months you can get a handle very easily on where they are at," he said.

"Horses that haven't grown up with snow find it a bit unusual. You can tell which ones have - they're the ones that want to roll in it and play around."

Don’t even venture out without the right gear! Tritton stablehand Herman is rugged up for the elements for trackwork at Pine Bush

Official weather records show that Pine Bush can have an early start to the snow season in late October. Snow usually continues for the next four months. The wintry weather can persist with light flurries and snow showers in March - with even mid-spring snowfalls recorded, occasionally as late as May.

The Tritton team has got off to a flying start in the new year with former South Australian Cup winner Pat Stanley posting two wins. Their never-say-die veteran Flaming Flutter and former New Zealander Happy Dryden also have one win apiece.

"The form of Flaming Flutter is unbelievable. He's got such a good attitude, he's happy and healthy and we certainly look after him. He's 12 years old and can keep racing over here until he's 14 so he's got a few years left in him yet," Shane said.

The couple spent many successful seasons based in NSW before arriving in the USA last March. They finished 2020 one shy of a magical 100-win season across two hemispheres.

"We recorded 99 winners - 36 in Australia and the other 63 over here in the US," Shane said.

Coincidentially their numbers put the Trittons in fifth place on both the Yonkers and Menangle training premiership tables!

With Canada shutting down racing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tritton barn will soon expand to 30.

"We are aiming to still stick around that number and no higher. There's eight of us doing them and trainers over here are only allowed to have one horse in a race. So when you put seven in, there's no double ups, and you're obviously contesting seven races which is a big night," he said.

"Strict COVID protocols are in place at the meetings with a limit on the numbers that can attend from each stable, and wearing masks is compulsory. But we feel very lucky that we are living in a small rural area."

Two of the stable big guns will return to racing this week-My Ruby Star, who won seven of her first eight starts, will race at Yonkers, while Lady De La Renta is off to Meadowlands.

Tritton, who admits to keeping a close eye on the racing scene back home, said the form of superstar Lochinvar Art (David Moran) was exciting.

"The horse would match it with them over here if they decided to do the trip after the Newcastle and Miracle Miles. But I think if they asked any other down under trainer who's now based here, I think any of us would suggest a six-month transition period," he said.

"It's a huge change. There's so much to take into account like acclimatization, and all of the transition. But also just adjusting to the practicalities of a big move and things like the style of racing and the different bikes.

"When we arrived here there was restricted racing due to COVID virtually from day one and it was frustrating, but in hindsight it gave us a chance to ease in.

"I've no doubts that Lochinvar Art would be very good here."

Terry Gange

NewsAlert PR Mildura

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