Day At The Track

Thanks for the memories, Monty

03:26 AM 30 Dec 2020 NZDT
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My Field Marshal, harness racing
My Field Marshal has provided Tim Butt with many career highlights
Ashlea Brennan Photo

The career of harness racing champion My Field Marshal (Art Major) has come to an end, with a catalogue of achievements that are as much a testament to the raw speed and ability of the horse as they are to the skills and persistence of his trainer Tim Butt.

Connections made the decision recently to call time on the eight-year-old stallion's illustrious career, which, in raw numbers reads: 76 starts for 29 wins and 25 placings for $1,493,180 in stakes.

Among My Field Marshal's achievements was an astonishing 2018 Miracle Mile victory that would be etched in the memory of every harness racing fan who witnessed it - storming to victory from last in a 1.46.9 mile, placing him in the top mile runs in history and clearly an Australasian record.

As a four-year-old Monty (his stable name after famed World War 1 and 2 British field marshal Bernard Montgomery) won almost every major race in New Zealand; at five he won the Len Smith Mile; at six a Miracle Mile; and a Fremantle Cup at seven.

Kate Butt's video tribute to My Field Marshal's career

But the back story to those remarkable achievements makes My Field Marshal's accomplishments even more notable.

A relatively modest 76 starts over a six-year career were largely the result of ongoing soft-palate issues.

"He had a wind operation as a three-year-old, and another as a five-year-old, and his wind problems really didn't help him to be consistent all the time," Butt, based at Menangle, said.

"But when I got him right, he was probably the best pacer I've trained for speed. He is actually a double rig (his testicles are concealed in his abdomen) so he carries all of those stallion qualities of strength and character. But he's like a thoroughbred in that he's got that athletic look, but doesn't need a lot of work," he said.

My Field Marshal winning The Miracle Mile (Scott Hamilton Photo)

"He was more fast than tough, and when he was spot on, in his heyday, he was pretty much unbeatable. He's beaten top horses like Lenny the Shark, Hector Jay Jay and Lazarus, and to win a Miracle Mile after two wind operations is really a huge credit to him."

But My Field Marshal was no cinch to "keep right", with the risk of lung infections that were an ongoing management issue from the wind operations.

Despite that, Butt credits wins with "Monty" among some of his most memorable career moments, particularly in securing him a coveted Miracle Mile - a trophy that had previously eluded the Butt camp.

My Field Marshal (Ashlea Brennan Photo)

"I trained Monty's mother, Foreal (Washington VC - Krystle (El Patron), for the owners Sid and Shona Brown from Mossgill, in Dunedin (New Zealand)," he said.

"Foreal was pretty handy too - she was a NSW Oaks champion and a triple crown winner in Auckland and won a ladyship mile and a heat of the interdominion.

"So to train another generation of horses for the same people is pretty special. Sid's dad was a gallops trainer, but Sid has gone towards the standardbreds, and he and Shona breed and race their own horses. They're impeccably cared for - Sid is one of those who does everything right and both of them absolutely love their horses."

Butt is also training My Field Marshal's younger full brother, four-year-old Surreal.

"He's got the family ability, but he has a few leg problems, so it will just depend whether we can get him back and keep him there," he said.

Connections had been considering the racing future of My Field Marshal for about six months.

"But in the end, he told us," Butt said.

"It's pretty tough with the constant mile racing at Menangle, and we respect the horse too much to have him slip back into claimers or weaker type racing, so we decided to call it a day.

"He'll have a new career of some sort, possibly back in New Zealand, or he'll be rehomed with a view to standardbred showing - he'll have a bit of a break first, though and then we'll decide."

Terry Gange

NewsAlert PR Mildura

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