Day At The Track

Tyler Buter reflects on memorable 2019 season

10:30 AM 13 Dec 2019 NZDT
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Tyler Buter, harness racing
Tyler Buter
USTA photo

Tyler Buter is putting the finishing touches on a memorable harness racing season and looking forward to taking another step forward in 2020.

The 34-year-old Buter has won a career-high $5.56 million in purses and driven in a career-high 34 races worth at least $100,000 this season. He also got the 3,000th win of his career in April.

Among Buter's other triumphs this year were the $500,000 Messenger Stakes, the most lucrative victory of his career, with American Mercury and the $100,000 Great Northeast Open Series championship for trotters with Rich And Miserable. He was second in the Matron and third in the Little Brown Jug with American Mercury and second in the Art Rooney Pace with Branquinho.

In addition, he drove in the Hambletonian eliminations, Breeders Crown, Kentucky Futurity, Adios, Three Diamonds, and Progress Pace.

Buter was named the Driver of the Year in U.S. Trotting Association District 8, which covers most of upstate New York. Entering Thursday, he had won 324 races this year, marking the fourth time he topped 300 in a season, and the first time since 2009.

"I'm definitely happy with the way the year went," said Buter, who resides in Middletown, N.Y. "I made the decision early in the year that I was going to drive more and train less. Judging by the numbers, it definitely paid off.

"It was a lot of 'firsts' for me this year (on the Grand Circuit). Being in the big races, that's where I want to be. Not everybody wants to travel and follow those horses around, but that's what I like to do. I like driving the 2- and 3-year-olds; I think that's the most fun to me."

Buter, though, did enjoy a good bit of fun this season with a 4-year-old, Rich And Miserable, trained by his father Todd. The gelding has won 11 of 21 races this year, highlighted by his head victory over Hannelore Hanover in the Great Northeast final, and earned $277,000. He races Saturday in a conditioned event at The Meadowlands.

"He was a fun surprise this year," Buter said. "He was just OK as a 2- and 3-year-old but he matured a lot between 3 and 4 and he had a great year.

"Unfortunately, he wasn't staked to anything, but it might have been a blessing in disguise. We'll point him toward a couple bigger races next year. We won't go crazy, but we'll give him a chance to race with the top names."

Buter grew up in Manchester, Mich., and got his first win at the Gladwin, Mich., fair before his 17th birthday. After successful stints in both Michigan and Illinois, he relocated to the East Coast in 2010.

Despite his many years in the sulky, Buter is still evolving as a driver.

"That's the crazy thing, I've been driving horses full time for 15 years almost, and you're always learning," Buter said. "I try to go through every night and drive every horse good. I'm my own worst critic; I'm pretty hard on myself as far as making mistakes.

"It's still hard to go a whole night and not make one mistake, and I've been doing it a long time. Being mistake-free is everyone's goal and it's something I strive for, trying to be perfect, if I can."

Over the years, Buter has realized the need to put any miscues behind him as quickly as possible.

"I used to let it carry over and get upset," Buter said. "You can't let it get to you. Five minutes later, you're going to be driving someone else's horse that put in seven days of hard work to get ready for this race and you've got to give your undivided attention to that horse and not be thinking about the one you just drove."

As for 2020, Buter has no specific goals.

"I just want to keep getting better," Buter said. "If I can have a little better year next year, that would be great. You never really want to take a step backwards in this business."

by Ken Weingartner, for the USTA

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