Trittons plot path forward with Lochinvar Art

After his successful U.S. debut, the Down Under pacer is plotting a course with Lauren Tritton at the reins.

by Brett Sturman

If you didn’t know anything and happened to look only at the tote board for last Saturday’s (Feb. 4) winners over race at The Meadowlands, you’d never have guessed the greatness in that race. Evidently not thoroughly impressed by a steady stream of press in recent weeks, Australia’s best horse from 2020, Lochinvar Art, was dismissed by the public at odds of 5-1 from just a six-horse field in that overnight race.

In fairness, Lochinvar Art had only raced sparingly since early in 2021, and there’s been some water under the bridge since his greatest triumph, nearly to the date two years ago, when he won Australia’s Hunter Cup. Still, it seemed backwards seeing heavy favoritism going to another newer, though far less heralded Down Under import, Burnham Boy. With Dexter Dunn driving Burnham Boy and Lauren Tritton driving Lochinvar Art, there’s no question that the driver factor contributed to the discrepancy in odds between the two horses. But it shouldn’t have, as much as it did.

Though largely still unknown to these parts, the vast accolades for the 29-year-old Tritton are common knowledge in her native Australia and were documented here in HRU last year. And family commitments notwithstanding related to Lauren and her husband and trainer Shane relocating to the U.S. three years ago, Lauren plans to continue as Lochinvar Art’s driver in their journey through the North American free-for-all ranks.

“I’m happy to stick with ‘Arty’ and I’m going to try to keep driving him for the time being,” Tritton said. “The only reason I don’t drive more often — and Shane would love to have me on all the horses as would I — is that I’m a mom and we don’t have family over here, so it’s very hard for us to navigate a caregiver for the children. You’ll notice a lot of my drives occur during the day, which coincides obviously with school hours.

“The night meetings do become quite difficult for us and difficult for me to drive. But it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity getting a horse like Arty, and I’ve known him since he was a 2-year-old, so he’s very special and I have a very special connection with the owners back home. In a worst-case scenario, if I can’t make it — and I’ll do my best to make it — then I’d have to look for another driver. But at this moment we’re not.”

Saturday’s win with Lochinvar Art was Tritton’s first lifetime win at The Meadowlands coming in her 21st start there. But driving on behalf of her Team Tritton barn in addition to picking up drives for other trainers in 2022, Tritton quietly put up rather impressive numbers last year. From 93 starts, a majority of which came at Monticello, Tritton won over a third of those. Between 32 wins, 13 seconds and 13 thirds, all told that was good for a UDRS rating of 0.468. That, while Tritton is still finding her way as a driver in North America.

“The racing style here is a lot different compared to home,” Tritton said. “I’m still getting comfortable. And not comfortable as in I don’t feel right out there; it’s more of being comfortable with the way the races are run. Back home I feel there’s a lot more tactics involved, there’s a lot of bumper cars if you want to put it that way. We’re allowed to push out, make a lot more moves. Back home there’s no holes, you don’t give holes at all. What also is quite different is that we don’t drive to the tote board, where here it’s kind of post positions and the tote board that dictate where you put a horse.

“And I feel very comfortable from the male-female point of view. That doesn’t bother me whatsoever and I’ve driven for and against a lot of these boys back home anyway. It’s more the racing style and the way the races are run, not feeling like there’s as many tactics involved.”

True to form, Tritton was far more tactically active with Lochinvar Art than likely would have been the case with any other top catch driver. Despite making his first start since September, Tritton hustled Lochinvar Art away from the gate. After yielding to fellow Australian-bred Crunch Time, Tritton was once again on the move when she popped out from the pocket after the half-mile to engage and move past Crunch Time, before keeping her Australian champion together through the lane to secure a game win by a neck over a closing Burnham Boy.

Tritton noted that Lochinvar Art pulled up out of the race in excellent fashion. The immediate target had always been the Borgata Pacing Series at Yonkers which begins later in March, but with Lochinvar Art coming out of his debut race so well, it seems likely that his next start could come in another week or two, at either Yonkers or again at The Meadowlands.

An accomplished driver on her own merits, it’s still inescapable within this industry to not take notice of the dynamic with a female driving a horse of this potential caliber.

“I’ve had my first drive when I was 16-years-old, so I’ve been to the well and back with the boys versus girls thing,” Tritton said. “It’s been a war at times, you get beaten up. Like even after Arty’s race the other night, the first comment I saw on social media was to the effect that if Arty wants to go to the top then I need to look for another driver. It’ll always be around no matter how good I am; it’ll always be someone beating you down and it’s just how you get back up.

“I do wish that females in this sport here would have more of a ‘we are good enough’ attitude. Look, there are some bad female [drivers] out there, but there’s some bad guys too. The women have to get over the fact that they feel like they’re not good enough and that they don’t belong out there. I’ve had a lot of women contact me since I’ve been here, basically saying that ‘I wish I could do that.’ And I just reply, ‘There’s no reason that you can’t.’ I will say that for me, Shane has been my rock. If I didn’t have Shane for those times when someone’s beating you down or just nailing you about a drive, if it wasn’t for him or having someone there like him to have the right things to say to build you back up then it would be quite difficult. So, I do wish females here would drive a lot more, but I know having that attitude can be hard. I’ve been lucky to have a very good support crew both here and at home.”