Day At The Track

Zac Butcher aiming for title

11:20 AM 24 Mar 2017 NZDT
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Zac Butcher
Zac Butcher - Pictured in the Barry Purdon colours.
Duane Ranger photo

The Alexandra Park Driving Premiership means a lot more to Zac Butcher than what people think.

“I don’t get enough drives to win the New Zealand premiership and Alexandra Park is my home track. Whoever wins that title is usually right up there as one of the best going around in the North island.

“That is very important to. I’ve had a really good season so far and I’m desperate for that to carry on going into the last third of 2016-2017,” Butcher said.

The 25-year-old Clevedon horseman has reined home 19 winners from 125 drives at Alexandra Park this season. He’s also placed on 37 times and has a healthy

0.2773 strike-rate.

Both Butcher’s father David and Tony Herlihy (MNZM) are second with 18 wins apiece.

“If I can stay ahead of Tony (Herlihy MNZM) the rest should take care of itself. He’s won the title so many times and to beat him would be some mean feat. I told Dad that and he said that he was the one I should be looking out for.

“I joked to him saying that if I was ahead of Tony I’d be ahead of him,” Butcher laughed.

“I’ll be dirty if I dropped behind Dad. He’s one driver I really want to beat. We have a big family rivalry when we get out there. Ben and I always want to beat Dad,” he added.

Butcher’s above average season can largely be put down to his boss Barry Purdon also being the leading trainer at ‘The Park’ with 22 wins – three clear of his brother-in-law, Herlihy.

“I’ve been driving some very good horses this year and I’m grateful to Barry and his owners for having faith in me. I’ve also picked up quite a few quality outside drives which have been helpful. I can’t thank all the owners and trainers enough,” Butcher said.

One outside trainer was Mark Jones, who provided Butcher with another Group One victory in 2016-2017.

Butcher drove the Jones trained Rocker Band to win the Group One $100,000 Ladyship Cup at Melton's Tabcorp Park on February 17.

"That was the highlight of the season so far and I'm so thankful for getting that drive. I still love what I do and I love where I work. I'm always hungry for wins, no matter where I drive," Butcher said.

Nationally, Butcher has driven 36 winners from 209 drives and is eighth on the New Zealand Driving Premiership with. He has also placed 36 times and he has earned $423,529 in stakes in 2016-2017.

His UDR strike-rate sits at a very good 0.3179 - 0.344 higher than his father, but Butcher Senior has driven 44 winners this season and sits fifth on the New Zealand Driving Premiership.

"It's always great to beat Dad at anything, but at the same time I will always respect what he's achieved. Only the very best reinsmen drive 2,200 winners," Butcher said.

Butcher (Zac) has topped the 100-win mark once in 10 seasons of driving. That was in 2011-2012 when he saluted the judge 114 times and banked a personal best $882,293. His strike rate of 0.2718 that year was much less than what he's achieved this season.

All up Butcher has driven 547 winners from 4,135 starters since 2009. He's also placed on 979 occasions and has career stake earnings of $6,080,246. His lifetime UDR is 0.2393.

The 2017 Alexandra Park Drivers Premiership as of today March 22 – (Driver, Starts, Wins, Seconds, Thirds, UDR)

1) Zac Butcher 125, 19,15, 22, 0.2773.

2) David Butcher 140, 18, 21, 21, .0.2619.

3) Tony Herlihy 124, 18, 15,17, 0.2581.

4) Maurice McKendry 138, 18, 10, 20, 0.2190.

5) Brent Mangos 101, 17, 12, 7, 0.2574.

Duane Ranger

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