Butt not on Wilma's Mate
By Michael Guerin
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.