News & Events

Stunin Cullen needs to lift game in Flying Stakes

By Michael Guerin

Stunin Cullen is at the crossroads in what will be his last start for trainer Anthony Butt at Ashburton on Monday. The former Hunter Cup winner starts in the Flying Stakes just two days before being transferred back to former trainer Tim Butt, who returned from disqualification on Tuesday. Tim’s brother Anthony says he has enjoyed the extra responsibility of training the large team at Premier Stables for the last six months but will be glad to see his brother back.

“Its been good, with the physical workload not really that much different because I have always been here at the stables anyway,” says Anthony.

“But there has been more admin work and a bit more planning.

“But it will be great to get Tim back.”

That comes at a tricky time for Stunin Cullen as the $1.46million earner struggles for top end form. He has been mid-pack in all three starts this campaign, which while not bad, is hardly the sort of form that made him the New Zealand Cup favourite two years ago, before problems robbed him of an entire season.

“He hasn’t been bad, in fact last week he probably paced his last 2400m in around 2:53,” says Butt.

“But he needs to lift about a length or two.

“He still has the speed because he has unleashed a couple of 26 seconds quarters here at home but he is also an older horse now who has had his share of problems.

“So Monday will tell us which direction he is going in and how he is shaping up for the Cup.”

Stunin Cullen has drawn wide in the Flying Stakes, in which his Cup pilot Dexter Dunn will do the driving. Butt will allow his own Cup drive Mah Sish to miss Ashburton after his was suffering from a slight throat infection after his placing at Addington last Friday.

“It is nothing major and he will be fine going forward but he doesn’t need to race in all the lead-up races.

“I am thrilled with where he is at and he has been just off Terror To Love in their two meetings so far.

“He has really taken the step up and will love the 3200m of the Cup.”

Mah Sish is likely to miss the Kaikoura Cup as well and race at Addington on November 2. The Butts will send Choise Achiever to Kaikoura and, while admitting his Cup campaign has started late, Anthony is pleased with his progress.

“He has started behind the eight ball a little bit but he doesn’t need a lot of racing so with a month left to go I think he will be fine for the Cup.”

One of the stable stars who is not quite fine at the moment is Vulcan, who dominated the Group Ones during NZ Cup week last season.

“He raced well below his best last Friday and was a crook horse afterwards.

“So I have eased up on him and will set him for Cup week.”

And what does Butt, the man who steered two of our greatest trotters in Lyell Creek and Take A Moment, make of trotting’s current champion I Can Doosit?

“Yes, he is a great horse and very dominant.

“And it is not just him. Those next few horses behind him like Stig, Dr Hook, Stylish Monarch… they are all very good too.

“There is so real depth there.”