02/09/2017 9:02AM

Bergman: Tritton sporting a strong Down Under contingent in 2017

Derick Giwner
Bit Of A Legend N is one of at least two George Morton levy hopefuls for trainer Peter Tritton in 2017.

For trainer Pete Tritton, 2016 was a magical year. His import, Bit Of A Legend N, more than lived up to his moniker while sweeping the George Morton Levy Series at Yonkers Raceway in the spring. By year’s end Tritton’s stable had earned more than $1.65 million collectively, his best year by far in the States. The trainer, fresh from a three week vacation in Australia, appears ready to get the ball rolling again in 2017 and there may be even more explosive talent in the stable.

“We’re going to qualify Bit Of A Legend and Texican this week at Yonkers,” said Tritton. “Bit Of A Legend had about six weeks in the field and he looks great.”

With $723,850 earned in 2016, Bit Of A Legend N was more than just a horse that won the Levy, he was a horse that survived that most difficult part of the season and was still going strong in his 28th start in late November.

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“He’s just a very sound horse,” said Tritton. “I don’t work him too much between races and he takes care of himself. I’ve never done any vet work.”

Tritton recognizes the demands on the top horses, especially those racing week-in-week-out at Yonkers. “I try to keep them fresh so that they can last,” Tritton said.

Bit Of A Legend N is obviously the big name in the stable heading into this year’s big races and Tritton expects the now 8-year-old to be as strong and competitive as he was in 2016. “I think one qualifier will be enough and then we’ll put him in to go,” said Tritton, expecting that his horse will be a player in the $50,000 Opens at Yonkers in the weeks ahead.

Texican N, the other of the pair that will qualify this week, was a player in the Levy series a year ago but Tritton reserved judgment on whether he’d be back in this year’s edition. “I’m not sure if I’m going to put him in,” said Tritton. Texican N finished third in the rich Levy final a year ago but by November had tailed off slightly. He’s been a bit more battle tested than Bit Of A Legend N on these shores with over $500K banked in the last three years.

Tritton is unsure about Texican N because he could have a star in the making in Provocativeprince N, a lightly raced horse in North America that makes his 2017 debut Friday night at Yonkers.

 “He might be faster than Bit Of A Legend,” said Tritton, somewhat cautiously optimistic. “We’re going to have to see how he does over time. He came a last half in 52 3/5 and horses just don’t do that at Yonkers.”

Indeed Provocativeprince N caught everyone’s attention on December 10 at Yonkers when he came from last to third in a wicked final half.

“I know he’s got the speed but I’m not sure how he’s going to be leaving the gate,” said Tritton, quite aware that winning races from last is not the norm at Yonkers, or for that matter any track these days.

Provocativeprince N, unlike the Levy winner of 2016, was not an overly expensive purchase. “I think he was about $60,000 and that includes shipping,” said Tritton of a horse that could turn out to be quite a bargain going forward.

The relatively cheap price for 7-year-old Provocativeprince N is likely due to Tritton’s Down Under connections when it comes to purchasing quality horses. “Peter Larkin is my agent and he’s done a phenomenal job,” said Tritton. “I’ve known him for more than 30 years and he knows the kind of horses I like to buy and finds them for me.”

Importing horses from New Zealand and Australia has become more commonplace these days as the breeding output in North America has waned and demand for quality racehorses has not.

Though Tritton has just returned from Australia, he says he wasn’t on a business trip. “I was there to see family mostly and wasn’t looking for horses,” Tritton said. “My son is one of the top trainers in Sydney and I won’t buy off of him.”

Though trotters are bit more scarce to find, Larkin was able to come up with a sleeper of sorts in Springbank Sam N. “He was a horse that had a lot of back class,” said Tritton. “He wasn’t able to beat the top horses and was getting on in age,” Tritton said.

Springbank Sam N has had a new lease on life since arriving on these shores last summer. The now 10-year-old gelding earned near $100K in just 15 North American starts in 2016 and has hit the ground trotting this year.

“He wasn’t used to leaving the gate when he first got here,” said Tritton. “But lately he’s gotten better and better at it.”

Springbank Sam N also has experience racing at distance and that’s been a huge advantage for he and Tritton in 2017.  Currently racing in Open company, Springbank Sam N has already earned $54,950 in just four starts this year, including a victory in the $56,000 Open two weeks ago at the one and one-quarter mile distance.

Clearly Tritton was not expecting big things when he purchased Springbank Sam N for owner Harry Van Knoblauch. “He wasn’t an expensive horse at all. I think he cost us $48,000,” said Tritton.

Finding quality horses is always a challenge for every horseman. Pete Tritton has to go more than an extra mile or two to acquire his stock. What his stable has produced in the last few years is rather impressive, but his success is reflective of his attitude. “I try to keep the horses happy. I don’t work them very hard and just send them out there fresh,” Tritton said.

With a fresh outlook and power on both gaits, the Tritton stable could reach even greater heights in 2017.

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