Butt gunning for the lead in tonight's Queen Of Hearts

By Michael Guerin

Visiting horseman Bob Butt has declared war on red hot favourite Aardie’s Express in the $110,000 Woodlands Stud Queen Of Hearts at Alexandra Park tonight.

Butt admits it is a war he and stable star Manhattan may not win but he’d rather find out than surrender the 2200m mobile Group 1.

Manhattan has been a constant force in some of the biggest mare’s races around Australasia but was clearly outpointed by Aardie’s Express and runner-up Lady Of The Light in the Breeders Stakes, the lead-up last Friday to tonight’s feature.

Aardie’ Express came from last to win last week and is an established open class star whereas Manhattan has yet to beat the boys in open class.

Her big advantage tonight is drawing the ace with Aardie’s Express directly outside her and Manhattan has the speed to use that draw so Butt will.

“I think I have to try and lead and stay there because if I hand the lead to her (Aardie’s Express) I am conceding the race,” says Butt.

“My mare can go 2:38 for 2:37 in front so Aardie’s Express will need to be good to sit parked outside her and beat her at that speed.”

Butt realises that if he flies early on Manhattan he could open a gap that would allow Zachary Butcher driving Aardie’s Express to get on his back and get the seemingly perfect trail.

“I know that could happen but I’d rather have her trailing me than be sitting in the trail behind her because she would have too much speed for us to catch her.”

Manhattan against the markers will take catching but the best version of Aardie’s Express should be too quick for her unless she has to sit parked throughout.

If Butt’s early predictions don’t pan out and Aardie’s Express is able to wrest the lead then she looks a good thing.

One group watching that with interest will be the TAB bookies who very generously opened Aardie’s Express at $2.20 and she was quickly backed into $1.65 on Tuesday and it wouldn’t surprise to see her start even shorter tonight.

There is plenty of depth to the race though, with Lady Of The Light in superb form but cruelly treated in the draw (barrier 8) while Allamericanlover is the defending champion but will need a heap of early pressure to undo the favourites if she is to successfully swoop in the second half of the race.

While Butt intends leading in the Queen Of Hearts he will be the hunter in the $50,000 Thames Members Trot tonight with Resolve starting off a 20m handicap.

The Canterbury mare has had a hugely productive month at Addington including finishing third in the Dominion and was fourth in the Group 1 NZ Trotting Free-For-All just five days ago.

Her biggest concern tonight is distance as she would look a good thing over 2700m but tonight’s main trot is only 2200m and if her rivals decide to make life hard for her she could be chasing the entire race.

“It won’t be easy, it never is at Alexandra Park off a handicap over the short trip,” admits Butt.

“So she will need some luck and it would be nice if she could begin fast and put a few behind her in the small field.”

One of Butt’s most interesting entries tonight is young trotter Bet N Win (R3, No.6) who was unlucky not to get a start in Sunday’s NZ Derby.

He has some learning to do and will be a better horse with an extra 20kgs of muscle on him in a year but he can really trot and his manners and inexperience right-handed may be a more difficult challenge than any of his rivals tonight.

“It can be a tough track first time for a young horse but he is talented and if I can ease him around the bends I think he can still win as he has high speed.”

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