Day At The Track
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David Butt has resigned himself to not driving his favourite trotting lady again. And that could signal a general winding down on his career in the sulky, even though he is not retiring. Butt would love to be behind former stable star Wilma’s Mate, now trained by Paul Nairn, when the speedster mare returns in the Banks Peninsula Trotting Cup at Motukarara on Sunday. But after driving her at the trials last Saturday he says he is not up to the job. One of the best judges of pace among his modern day rivals, Butt only drove 15 times last season after a mystery illness struck him down in May last year. After initial fears he had had a stroke, Butt recovered quickly to partner Wilma’s Mate to win the 2017 four-year-old trot at the Jewels but has struggled with his balance when driving since.  “I am still not right,” admits Butt. “I drove her (Wilma’s Mate) at the trials last Saturday and wasn’t 100 per cent with my balance.  “And you can’t be driving in the best races when you aren’t right.  “Obvously we are nowhere as involved with the horses as we used to be and I will still be able to drive, probably the odd maiden here and there.  “But I wouldn’t want to go into a race like the Dominion in a couple of months and make a mistake.  “So I won’t be driving her this weekend or any time soon.”  The laconic Butt has earned a reputation for being one of the most-laid back reinsman in New Zealand but his talent is enormously respected among his peers.  He has over 1100 wins in New Zealand, with a career-best 85 wins in 2009 and has also won a Hunter Cup in Victoria with Bondy as well as an Inter Dominon Trotting Final with Call Me Now at home.  But for all his skill in the sulky Butt’s greatest claim to harness fame is the fact he and wife Catherine won the national trainer’s premiership twice (2006 and 2007), their 90 winners in 2007 putting them 17 clear of their nearest rivals. Remarkably, that season they trained twice as many winners in New Zealand as the now perennial premiership winner Mark Purdon.  The Butts have enormously downscaled their training operations since though.   Michael Guerin

Wilma's Mate who won her section of the harness racing Jewels last season and Bordeax who ran third in the Rowe Cup last season, both get serious in their Dominion Handicap preparations this weekend. The classy trotters will both race fresh up on the grass surface in the group three Banks Peninsular Trotting Cup at Motukarara on Sunday. Bordeax ran second in the race last year which was won by the Greg and Nina Hope trained Harrysul. _______________________________ Meanwhile the Greg and Nina Hope trained Monbet has had a minor setback in his Dominion Handicap preparation with a leg issue, but will be back at the trials next week. Monbet trotted a New Zealand record of 4-00.7 for the 3200m stand when winning the Dominion Handicap last year and is a hot favourite with the TAB to repeat the performance and win this year. _____________________________________________________________________________________________ Titan Banner became the first Otago trained horse to win the Hannon Memorial for over thirty years, when he won the time honoured race at Oamaru on Sunday. The Art Major gelding stopped the clock at 3-16.8 for the 2600m stand, with a quick 54.9 for the last 800m and home in 27.0 seconds flat for the last 400m. _____________________________________________________________________________________________ The All Stars Stable of Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen have a big team engaged in todays Ashburton workouts. The top trainers have thirteen horses entered including top 4yo, The Fixer.   Harnesslink Media

Not many would have predicted that Greg and Nina Hope’s first major trotting win for the season would come from Harrysul. So when the ungainly, but effective, trotter burst along the running rail in yesterday’s DG Jones Banks Peninsula Trotting Cup at Motukarara there were plenty scrambling for the form guides to try and figure out where a performance like that had come from. Not the Hopes’ though, they were pleasantly surprised of course, but they’ve always had a bit of time for the horse. “It’s always been there, we’ve just had to juggle a few things along the way,” Greg said. “He’s not the most fluent of trotters are you can see, but he’s actually very powerful and you can’t really feel the we hitch he has when you’re driving him. “His form recently has been a lot better than what it probably looks, he finished last when we last took him to the races but he raced three wide and still trotted a bit of time so I wasn’t ready to give up on him.” Now a four time winner on the grass, Harrysul has always shown a liking to the greener surfaces and he’s also been able to transition the high speed he possesses from the grit track to the grass. Trapped away four back on the fence yesterday while Bordeaux tried to run them off their feet from the front Harrysul and Ricky May looked to be in a bit  of trouble coming off the back straight. May’s never one to panic though. He bided his time and waited for the gap, then when Harrysul got through, he did the rest. “It was a pretty big performance I thought,” Hope said. “To come from where he did, especially with those other ones in front of us, was a great run.” Harrysul Hope will now look toward Addington in a couple of weeks for Harrysul as his headaches begin around placing four open class trotters and then finding drivers if they all end up together. Monbet will be the pick of the bunch as he continues to work toward a resumption at Ashburton later this month. There’s also Harrysul, Quite A Moment, who returns in this week’s Canterbury Park Trotting Cup at Addington, and Phil’s Gift who is proving to be a headache created of his own in his current form. “We’ve got a bit of working out to do, and so does Ricky. He’ll obviously drive Monbet but we are going to have clash some horses somewhere down the track.” The Woodend Beach stable went to a six win lead on the premiership with a winning double yesterday. They now sit on 16 thanks for the victories of Harrysul and maiden trotter, Ella Abbe. Robert Dunn is next on the list with 10 winners. Yesterday’s Motukarara meeting was another great day at the track for Jessica Young. The talented horsewoman, who has enjoyed big days in the sulky at Motukarara before, picked up a winning double. She produced a well-timed finish on Maybe Flyin to get home during the middle stages of the day before Clasina Maria, who is trained by her father Paul, smashed them in the last race, winning by more than five lengths.   By Matt Markham

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