Merv forming the ‘green army’
By Garrick Knight
Merv Butterworth is a man on a mission.
The Melbourne business magnate, who races horses with his wife, Meg, has quietly accrued a significant aged racing team with Ray Green in Pukekohe,
The number has just swollen to eight and three of them, Just Wing It, The Bull Pen and newcomer Kiwi Bloke, will contest the same $20,000 race at Alexandra Park on Friday night.
“You’ve heard of the ‘blue army’ (Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen), well we’re developing the ‘green army’,” joked Butterworth earlier this week.
Green is more than accommodating as Lincoln Farms have basically sent all their own racehorses to Australia to race and the oldest are only juveniles.
“Ray said he would have to get rid of a few more to keep making room for mine, but he didn’t mind because it gave him a racing team.”
As well as the three aforementioned, the Butterworths’ trotter Ash has joined Green from Bernie Hackett and Michelle Wallis while another squaregaiter, Ace Commander, has arrived from the South Island.
“Ace Commander is one I am really looking forward to.
“I had his brother, Sky Commander, who did a good job so was happy to secure him from Brian Norman recently.”
Promising filly The Empress has also arrived in Pukekohe from Robin Swain’s stable in the deep south while Zealand Star is recovering from a leg fracture.
Butterworth also just purchased Cuchulainn, a promising Southland trotter, but he will spell for two months in Southland before coming up to Green.
Kiwi Bloke debuts for his new connections this week and has come up with the plum ace draw.
By chance John Morrison, his former trainer, actually takes the drive again after coming to Auckland to take the steer on Miss Blissful in the junior drivers’ race.
“I saw Kiwi Bloke win at Forbury Park recently and quite liked what the horse did from the standing start – he had great manners.
“I didn’t think much more of it and then young Nathan Purdon rung me and said he’d found me another horse.
“I wasn’t really looking for one, but Nathan had found Scoob Operator for me so I asked him what it was.
“Sure enough it was Kiwi Bloke and when he told me the price, I was sold on him.
“Long term, I think he will do well in Perth where standing start manners are a huge advantage, but I thought I would let Ray have a crack with him first.
“I have since learnt that the horse had a severe virus when he was younger and probably came back before he was ready.
“John was working for Malcolm Shinn at the time and that was how he came to get the horse.”
On his chances this week, Butterworth said a workout win at Pukekohe last Saturday has given them plenty of confidence.
“Ray thought he was lacking a little in speed, but at the workouts last week he went a lead time in 33, which he tells me is very fast.”
Butterworth has been a proflic buyer from Southland for a number of years now and says it’s a very simple process for him.
“I understand the Southland scene. Canterbury, I don’t understand it at all.
“They’re a good bunch of blokes down in the deep south, and not many of them are full time professional trainers.
“A lot of them are meat workers and really grounded.
“I can walk around Ascot Park, Gore, Winton and everyone says gidday.
“I like the people down there and I like the horses.”
It’s not all beer and skittles for Butterworth, he made the decision last week to ‘sack’ high-priced purchase Governor’s Bay after yet another disappointment.
“It was a mistake buying him.
“After his poor performance last week, I text Ray and told him that I’m done with him and to find someone else for him.
“I understand Jim Cole has him now.”