First Jewels Invite announced

By Michael Guerin

A disastrous first trip to New Zealand has inspired trainer Shane Tritton to become the first Australian to win a Harness Jewels.

Tritton has accepted the first invite issued by HRNZ this season for Salty Robyn to contest the two-year-old male pacing division of the Jewels at Ashburton on May 30.

And he is determined to make amends for his first New Zealand assault, which could hardly have gone worse.

Tritton, who trains 65 horses, brought Suave Stuey Lombo over 18 months ago and watched him finished unplaced in four starts.

His lack of standing start manners cost him dearly, blowing the start of the New Zealand Cup, but what really hurt was when he lead and faded in the New Zealand Free-For-All over his favoured mile trip.

He returned home to pace two sub 1:50 mile last year, showing just how hard it is to race up to your best in a different country.

“While things didn’t work out for us last time I love New Zealand racing and have a whole barn on New Zealand horses over here,” says Tritton.

“So I’d love to get back there and win a big race and we know more about it now.”

Salty Robyn was purchased unraced from Southland and has looked sensational in Sydney, overcoming an early gallpop to thrash group two opposition last start.

With a 1:53.7 mile time to his name he has the motor to match the elite New Zealand juveniles and he will now contest a Sires’ Stakes heat at Addington on his way to the Jewels.

He is the first Australian invited this season after plans for Australian contenders fell flat last season.

HRNZ has changed their criteria and worked with trainers to see which horses are best suited to the Jewels, which could see four or five Australian reps at the $1.2million meeting.

The first Jewels markets were released yesterday, with the TAB bookies reluctant to take too many chances, giving odds for the top contenders in each division and then bracketing the rest together in an “Any Other Runner” option.

The Orange Agent and Dalton Bromac were both odds on in their divisions, with Venus Serena rated a $2 chance to become the first three-time Jewels winner.

King Denny and Mum’s Pride head the four-year-old trot market and Speeding Spur the three-year-old trot.

The first 12 horses on stakes won in New Zealand in each division on the night of May 17 will qualify for the Jewels, as well as the Australian invite.

If the Australian invite is turned down, 13 New Zealand-trained horses will fill each field.

The next Australian invites are expected next week.