Butt pilots good chances
By Michael Guerin
The prodigal son of Canterbury harness racing laughs about returning to its greatest day as the enemy.
But the result could still be the same.
Anthony Butt may live in Sydney these days and be driving a NSW trotter in Tough Monarch in Tuesday's $100,000 NZ Trotting Free-For-All but he is about as Canterbury as horsepeople come.
“It will always be home, even if I don’t live here,” says Butt, a member of the Jones-Butt dynasty that ruled harness racing in the region for decades.
Butt and his brother Tim so dominated the trotting scene Anthony has won our greatest trot race the Dominion nine times as a drive, which makes his mere five wins in the Trotting Free-For-All almost seem normal by comparison.
They also pillaged Australia’s best trotting races and of course won almost every major pacing race as well but now Butt is returning home to help the Aussies snare one of our group ones.
“It is a bit ironic coming back home to try and win one for Australia,” says Butt.
“And I think he can do it. He is a very good horse, has great gate speed and is trotting beautifully.
“So I am confident he will end up in front and take plenty of running down.”
The Free-For-All may be a group one but its awkward timing three days before the far richer Dominion means Oscar Bonavena and Marcoola are not there and the most favoured locals are drawn poorly.
So with back up from now Victorian ex-pat trotter McLovin, the Australians have a very rare shot at group one trotting glory during Cup week.
It isn’t Butt’s only shot though as he thinks North Island three-year-old Line Up is a real show in the $170,000 Sires’ Stakes Final.
Butt has become the go-to driver for NSW’s biggest harness owner Emilio Rosati so picks up the drive on the Ray Green-trained speedster and he loved the feel he got from him at the trials last week.
“He is real ability and I think he can win, he is good enough,” says Butt.
“Some years the Sires’ Stakes has a standout three-year-old who turns out to be a champion but this year hasn’t shown us one of those yet so it might be more even than usual.”
As for his homecoming, Butt says Cup Day is one of the world’s great harness meetings.
“I have driven all over the world, obviously everywhere in Australasia, at a lot of Elitlopp (Sweden) meetings and on Hambletonian Day in the States and there is no place in the world where the city stops for a harness meeting like it does on Tuesday.”