Racing: Butt battling way back but days of domination over

By Michael Guerin

Tim Butt.
Tim Butt.

Tim Butt is back in the big time at the right time.

But one of New Zealand's most successful horsemen admits his days of domination are gone for ever.

Butt takes possible Taylor Mile favourite Field Marshal to Alexandra Park on Friday night, the first of three major group ones the four-year-old can win in the next seven weeks as he also chases the Messenger and the Jewels.

As good as Field Marshal has been since returning from a throat operation that ended his three-year-old season, Butt knows his prospects heading into that trio of races could be vastly different.

"Not having Have Faith In Me and Hughie Green in these races is huge for this horse," said Butt.

"We have always aimed him at the Jewels because he has real speed and over a mile around Cambridge, with a good draw anything could happen. But now, these are all races he can win."

Winning any group one would be a huge result for Butt at the moment, scarcely believable when you consider his record this century.

Horses such as Lyell Creek, Take A Moment, Mr Feelgood, Flashing Red, Mister D G, Happy Asset, Stunin Cullen, Mah Sish, Tribute and so many others saw Butt and his brother and No1 driver Anthony win almost twice as many Grand Circuit races last decade at any other trainer.

Their record at the highest level of open class racing rivalled what Mark Purdon and Natalie Rasmussen achieve now - without anything like the age group success.

If that sounds impossible consider this stat: Butt has won 50 Grand Circuit races, Mark Purdon, who is second on the list, only 27.

But it was all too good to last.

Anthony moved to Victoria after local driving opportunities dried up, the All Stars juggernaut has gotten bigger and Tim admits his business model stopped working, especially after time on the sidelines suspended.

"Our thing was to buy good horses and get the most out of them, travelling them to the right places, but these days horses like that usually aren't for sale or the starting price is $300,000 or more," he says.

"And that sort of money isn't easy to get.

"Then I sold half my property so we downsized to the point we can only have 16 horses now and a couple of horses we did buy didn't work out."

Butt says not being part of the big show in the past two years has hurt but there is no malice or jealousy.

"I can't worry about what everybody else is doing. I could have looked at other trainers and wonder why they have 40 horses and I didn't, but it's more important for me to look at what I need to improve.

"So now the team will always be smaller but it only takes one good horse to get you back in the big time and this horse could be the one. After that, things can change pretty quickly."

Field Marshal is out of yet another former Butt open class star in Foreal, both owned by their breeder Syd Brown, who has remained loyal to Butt during the tough times.

"He has got himself a good horse and I think if they go hard this week he can win, but Taylor Miles are never easy from back in the field.

"But this is what I train for, to have a horse in the good races taking on the best trainers. So I'll enjoy it either way."

- NZ Herald

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