Day At The Track

Butcher back, big time

05:21 PM 14 Jun 2016 NZST
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David Butcher

The cream always rises to the top – even at a low-key Waikato Harness Racing meeting on a winter’s day at Cambridge Raceway (Sunday June 12).

One of the best drivers to ever sit in sulky at 'The Raceway' – David Butcher – drove four of the nine winners yesterday.

He only had six drives for four wins, a fifth and a sixth. His quartet of victories came via the Peter and Vaughan Blanchard Pukekohe barn (two); one for Mike Berger’s Cambridge stable; and the other for his father, John, also of Cambridge.

Three of his four wins were behind 3-year-old fillies.

The latter came via Sundon gelding, Larch. Butcher trains the 5-year-old with his father, John, who is currently experiencing health issues.

“Dad’s got scarring on the lungs. He struggles getting air sometimes but that doesn’t stop him coming down to the stable on his mobility scooter.

“I think he just likes the company – and his advice is always valuable. It’s always great driving a winner for him,” 51-year-old Butcher said.

Butcher senior was one of 13 Waikato harness racing identities aged over 80, who was bestowed with an ‘Over-80s Waikato Certificate' at a 170-strong Harness Racing Waikato function at Cambridge Raceway on Sunday May 29

The father and son combination have now trained six winners this season compared to five last year. They have also placed 30 times for $54,087 in stakes.

“Larch has been racing fairly well all season, and finally got one. We usually work between eight and 10 and we’ve got two to three race horses at the moment.

“He (Larch) was a nice third here two starts back and it wasn’t a bad effort today considering he started one from on the second line.

“We just stuck to the markers all the way and then he sprinted well up the lane. That’s his second win now. He won a race down south before we got him in January. He’s no star but he had always threatened to win another one,” butcher said.

Larch won the $6,000 Donegal Bettorgretch Mobile for C1 to C3 trotters by one-and-a-quarter lengths. He trotted the 1700m mobile in 2:08.2 (mile rate 2:01.4) with final 800m and 400m sprints of 60.8 and 30.5.
The bay was the $9.40 fifth favourite, unlike the Blanchard trained duo of Aurora Bromac and Rockon Bye, who were the $2.40 and $2.20 favourites in races six and eight respectively.

“I thought before I got on them that they were both good enough to win. Peter and Vaughan had them spot on today. Rockon Bye had an easier win but they both won well,” Butcher said.

Aurora Bromac sat in the one-one for most of the 1700m mobile and got up to win in the last stride by a neck. The Rob Roy Mattgregor filly stopped the clock in 2:02.7 (mile rate 1:56.1) with final 800m and 400m sprints of 57 even and 27.9.

It was her third win in six starts.

Rockon Bye drew the ace and trailed early before going around to lead after 300 metres. Butcher dictated all the pace behind the 3-year-old Christian Cullen filly to win by one-and-a-half lengths.

She notched up her second win in eight starts by pacing the 2200m mobile in 2:43 flat (mile rate 1:59.2) and home in 58 and 28 even.

Butcher’s fourth victory behind the Berger trained Vivacious Madonna was supposed to be the race that his brother Phil notched up his 50th driving win of the season behind the Berger trained favourite, Spin To Win.

But no, the elder sibling got the chocolates behind the $9.20 fifth favourite in the seven-horse fifth race.

“I just wanted to keep him waiting a bit longer. He’s been on 49 wins for a wee while now so another week or two of stressing won’t hurt him,” joked Butcher.

Butcher and Vivacious Madonna started from the outside of the front line and settled last early before Butcher set the Art Major filly alight down the back straight the last time.

That was the winning of the race. Butcher got the best out of the 3-year-old at the 50m to win by three quarters of a length.

It was her first win in 17 starts and she paced the 2200m mobile in 2:42.7 (mile rate 1:59 even) with final 800m and 400m sectionals of 60.3 and 30.1.

“It was a great day at the office. Things worked out well. I’m just happy to be back driving after an off-on year,” Butcher said.

Butcher has driven 2,148 winners ($22.1 million) since 1982 – 68 ($639,503) of them this season.

“I had a good run when I came back but there hasn’t been any real standout performances. I’ve just kept trying to win every race I drive in, so I’m fairly happy with where I’m at now.

“Like I said I’m just happy to be back in the sulky,” insisted Butcher.

You can’t blame him for thinking that way.
Last July Butcher suffered multiple internal injuries after being kicked in the chest by a horse at his Cambridge stable.

He was admitted to the high dependency unit at Waikato Hospital with a lacerated spleen, perforated bowel and broken ribs. He didn’t return to the sulky until late September 2015.

That serious injury occurred just 18 months after Butcher tore his pectoral muscle when he was leading a young horse. It pulled back suddenly and stopped, whipped his arm back and the muscle was torn off.
Butcher is currently sixth on the National Driving Premiership (NDP) and is the leading North Island reinsman this season - some 14 wins ahead of Tony Herlihy (MNZM).
Since 2010 he has finished fifth, 16th, fifth, third, second, and second on the NDP.

Duane Ranger

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