David Butcher might be off the scene for six months after pulling pectoral muscle away from the bone, but that doesn’t mean there will be one less Butcher on the New Zealand harness racing scene.
Butcher’s nephew Shane arrived home from Perth last Thursday after spending almost three seasons driving In Western Australia.
The 22-year-old drove 50 winners there in 2012-2013 and almost 100 since leaving these shores in 2011. He is keen to carry on that success in New Zealand.
“I’d like to get as many drives as I possibly can. I’m going to give David and my grandfather (John) a hand, and hopefully break in a few from the Sales.
“I’d love to get all David’s drives. That would be a dream, but I’m not a dreamer. I’m realistic and not many reinsmen are as good as him. He’s one of New Zealand’s best and I wish him a speedy recovery. He’s a fantastic driver,” Butcher said.
Butcher is the youngest son of David and Philip Butcher’s Cambridge-based sister, Pauline. His older brother Stephen is an amateur driver, while middle brother Matthew, who is a hairdresser, has never been interested in a racing career.
Born in Hamilton and educated at Cambridge High School Butcher left school and worked for Tony Herlihy and then Steven Reid before joining the Graeme Rogerson team in Tauherenikau.
He then had a stint with Todd Mitchell before flying to Perth in 2011.
“I got a job working with David Thompson at Byford thanks to Simon Lawson. Simon was in Melbourne while David was campaigning David Hercules there.
“They got talking and because of that I ended up in Western Australian. I worked for David for about a year before joining Gary Hall in Perth.
“I ended up being his number one claim driver but in the end I got tired and homesick and wanted to be with family and try my luck back here,” Butcher said.
Apart from driving dual Inter Dominion winner Themightyquinn in track work, Butcher said the best horse he drove on race-day was the New Zealand bred son of Washington VC and Jane Halsey – Hokonui Ben.
He has so far won 17 of his 52 starts and more than half a million dollars in purses.
As for Butcher’s biggest win – that came on January 4 last year in the Group Two $30,000 Western Australia Trotters Cup when he steered the Hall trained Makati Maximus to a six metre victory.
The son of Brylin Boyz and Sounds Good (NZ) was a $2 favourite that night.
“It was great working for one of Australia’s best horsemen, but you would be working and travelling every day or night of the week, and to be honest I missed home quite a bit.
“I really want to make a good go of it back here. I’m open to everyone for drives. I want to freelance as much as I can,” said Butcher.
Before leaving for Australia Butcher had 12 winners and 44 placings from 303 New Zealand junior drives. He also won $115,610 in stakes.
Since arriving back in his homeland he has had five average drives – two at Cambridge (8th and 5th) last Thursday night, and three at Stratford on Sunday, where he finished fifth, 10th, and eighth behind Jonny Wilkinson in the Stratford Cup.
“It will be great to get that first win behind me. I really enjoy being back home with family and driving here again,” the likeable reinsman said.
By Duane Ranger (Harness Racing New Zealand)