From the point of view of horsemanship, Anthony Butt could
accurately be said to have been bred on a “golden cross”. His
grandfathers, Wes Butt and Derek Jones, belong to the short-list
of New Zealand harness racing’s outstanding trainer-drivers.
Little wonder then that from the minute he entered the sport as
a 17-year-old in 1983 Anthony began carving out a distinguished
career, topped off by his Inter Dominion Trotting Grand Final
treble with Lyell Creek (2000) and Take A Moment (2001 and
2003). A Pacing Grand Final victory in 2009 (Mr. Feelgood USA)
added a further honour to the list.
The Butt and Jones dynasties merged when Murray Butt, son of
family patriarch Wes, married Derek Jones’s daughter Jenny. The
union produced not only Anthony but also Tim (ace Kiwi trainer
of numerous top-liners including Lyell Creek and Take A Moment)
and Roddy, winner of two Inter Dominion Drivers Championships on
his way to building an admirable record as a trainer and driver.
Wes’s other son Robin (claimant of many distinctions highlighted
by his 1980 Miracle Mile success with Locarno), married Jackie,
daughter of another legendary New Zealand horseman Jack Litten.
They are the parents of the Dominion’s latest leading trainer
Complementing this clan’s tremendous contribution to the game,
Derek Jones’s son Peter twice topped the junior drivers in the
mid-l970s and remains a top horseman, while his son in turn,
Mark Jones, is a New Zealand drivers’ premiership winner with a
World Driving Championship title also among his many credits.
Anthony Butt’s illustrious career began when in his first season
of driving (1983/84) he took out New Zealand’s junior title. In
doing so, he followed in the footsteps of his uncle Peter Jones
who had won it in 1976 and 1977. A regular around the Jones
stable from age nine, he had learned a lot about reinsmanship by
the time he was licensed. Accordingly, at only his third race
drive he landed his first winner.
Again top NZ junior the following season, Anthony, with 55 wins,
eclipsed the record held by his uncle. In the process, Anthony
won both the Inter Dominion and Junior Drivers Championships.
Beating all but David Butcher in 1985/86, Anthony bowed out the
following term with a final flourish, registering a third title
win in his four years as a junior.
From that point, consistently in the top 10 of New Zealand
reinsmen, he was to savour fame and fortune again in the early
1990s, when Blossom Lady joined the Jones stable. Teaming with
her, Anthony guided her to 34 of her 43 career wins. These
included six Inter Dominion heats and a consolation, the 1992 NZ
Cup and Free-for-all, two Hunter Cups in Melbourne, the 1991
Easter Cup at Addington and three NZ Standardbred Breeders
Stakes. The wonderful mare was retired as an 11-year-old in
January, 1996, the winner of $1,334,800. Bred by Ralph Kermode
(Harness Racing New Zealand president 1998-1999-2000), she was
raced by him with a syndicate made up of relatives and friends.
As a matron she has also excelled, leaving, among other winners,
the excellently-performed Mister D G.
Becoming number-one driver for the steadily flourishing stable
of brother Tim, Anthony next had the enviable pleasure of
steering the outstanding trotters Lyell Creek and Take A Moment
as their brilliant careers unfolded.
Little did Anthony know when, late in 1998, Lyell Creek entered
brother Tim’s stable, that the 5-year-old Roydon Glen gelding,
boasting a fifth and a win from his only two starts, would
rocket him to further prominence. A pacing-bred trotter, Lyell
Creek had been purchased after that first win by colourful
Christchurch owner Graham Bruton, and would win first-up for his
new connections. Three starts and two wins later, Lyell Creek
was lowered by a virus which sidelined him. Six months later, he
resumed with a flourish with three straight wins. With a
background of nine wins from a mere 11 starts, Lyell Creek gave
Anthony an armchair drive, jogging in to win the 1999 Dominion
Handicap, New Zealand‘s premier event for the squaregaiters.
Much more glory was to come. “Creek the Freak” (as he was now
known) and Anthony were unbeaten in eight further starts in his
6-year-old season. These included the 2000 Inter Dominion Grand
Final at Moonee Valley (where he was unbeaten in the four starts
of his first Australian raid) and Auckland’s big trotting event,
the Rowe Cup. Apart from becoming the first trotter to win the
Dominion-ID Grand Final-Rowe triple crown in the one season, he
took out the Australasian Trotters’ Grand Circuit title.
Six months away from the action, Lyell Creek resumed at
Addington in September, 2000, with Anthony having purchased a
quarter-share in the gelding. For this transaction, Anthony took
very little coaxing. “I’ve never driven a horse that’s been so
dominant over his rivals“, he told Canterbury harness scribe
John Robinson. “He just gives you so many options in a race. He
goes so hard all the way that he takes the sprint out of his
Virtually invincible in his racing on both sides of the Tasman
now, plans were well on the way for an extensive overseas
campaign, through Europe and North America. Before taking off to
the other side of the world, however, he compiled a remarkable
winning record that included another Dominion Handicap and Rowe
Cup double and another unbeaten four-start raid on Moonee
Valley, where, as he had done a year earlier, he took out the
coveted Dullard Cup and Australian Trotting Championship.
Signing off from this part of the world in April 2001, Lyell
Creek and Anthony made it nine wins from as many attempts at
Moonee Valley with an easy win in the Bill Collins Mile. Less
than four weeks later, driven by ace Swedish horseman Torbjorn
Jansson, he launched his overseas campaign with a very easy win
at Sweden’s Solvalla Raceway.
Racing then without luck and unable to win again in Scandinavia,
Lyell Creek began his American contest soon after. Feeling the
effects of a long campaign, he struggled for a time and was
eased in August with only a few minor placings to his credit.
Freshened, he typically bounced back, scoring (in 1:54.4) his
first American win at The Meadowlands in January, 2002, in the
hands of ace US horseman John Campbell.
Excellent American form followed over the two years; and when
Lyell Creek returned to his homeland to reunite with the Butt
stable he had won 18 races in North America (with a best mile of
1:52.4) and one in Sweden, with career earnings now equating to
Though he was now 10 years old, it took him and Anthony only
three starts to find the winner’s circle: bolting home in the
Rowe Cup - the only horse to win the race three times. As an
11-year-old, he again took out the NZ Free-for-all and Dominion
Handicap and for the third time was the Australasian Trotters
Grand Circuit winner. Lyell Creek retired the winner of 56 races
and life earnings equating to NZ$2,961,137.
Tim and Anthony Butt at this stage (2004) had respectively trained and
driven seven Dominion Handicap winners on the trot, with the other
star of the stable, Take A Moment, having prevailed in 2001,
2002 and 2003. In parallel, with Inter Dominion Grand Final
victories by Take A Moment in Brisbane in 2001 and in
Christchurch in 2003, Anthony worthily gained his entrée to the
select group of honourees of the Inter Dominion Hall of Fame.
Anthony teamed with Take A Moment (another honouree) for many
other high profile wins, including the Bill Collins Trotters
Mile twice (2002, 2003), and the 2002 Australian Trotting Grand
Prix in a record time of 1:59.8. Take A Moment bowed out in
September, 2005, with 39 wins and NZ$1,164,356 in stakes to his
credit. Flashing Red was another to benefit from Anthony’s driving skills – with New Zealand Cup wins (2006, 2007) and a Horse of the Year award (2006/07).
With such fine pacers as Happy Asset, Mister D G and Foreal
keeping the pot boiling for the Tim Butt stable, the brothers
continued on their irrepressible winning way. Further top level success came in 2009 with Mr Feelgood USA, an American colt whose wins included the famous pacing contest the Little Brown Jug (2006). Always on the lookout for promising performers, the brothers followed a lead in late 2008 which saw the Grinfromeartoear offspring bought by an Australian syndicate headed by Queensland businessman Kevin Seymour. An initial campaign targeting major races in Australia paid off, with line honours in the Shepparton Cup and the Hunter Cup, in the lead up to the Inter Dominion.
In that Australasian contest, held at the Gold Coast, Mr Feelgood was up against local champion Blacks A Fake, vying for a fourth consecutive Grand Final win. Starting off a second line draw, Butt’s masterly driving brought the American import first across the line with a mile rate of 1.56.6 (a new track record) in a very tight finish from Blacks A Fake.
These victories, which came at the expense of leading Australian performers such as I Am Sam and Blacks A Fake, both driven by Natalie Rasmussen, contributed to prizemoney of $829,825 from the three month’s racing under the guidance of the Butt brothers. Mr Feelgood also tied with Blacks A Fake as Grand Circuit Pacers Champion 2008/2009 and was the Australian Harness Horse of the Year, while Anthony took his Grand Circuit winning drives to 40.5 (11 pacers; 29.5 trotters)
Season 2009/2010 was somewhat lower key for Anthony, though his national achievements showed 54 wins and 76 placings, with stakes of $787,735NZ. Mr Feelgood could not reproduce his strong performance at the Inter Dominion (ID10) in Sydney, running second and fourth in the heats, and fading to ninth in the final, won convincingly by Blacks A Fake at the new Menangle Park Paceway. However, 2010 finished on a high note with the return of Stunin Cullen, a former 3YO Pacer of the Year; the Christian Cullen colt had been out of racing after an operation by Australian specialist veterinarian Alistair McLean to alleviate a breathing problem.
Positive results in the lead-up to 2011 brought Butt and Stunin Cullen back to Australia for the Trans Tasman festival, where convincing victories in the Ballarat and Hunter Cups added to their profiles. It was Butt's fifth win in the latter, which reinforced his position as the most successful reinsman in the history of the 3280 metre standing-start race. ID11 in Christchurch was their next target, but the colt was withdrawn, needing a spell after his Australian campaign, and the Butt brothers' trainer/driver combination (Tim and Anthony) concentrated on Choise Achiever and Raglan (pacers) plus Vulcan (trotter).
Anthony also started the series as the all time leader among harness racing drivers to feature in such events. The carnival was transferred to Auckland due to earthquake damage, but results were not outstanding, with Choise Achiever finishing well back in the pacers' final, and Raglan placed second in the Consolation. A subsequent win in the Rowe Cup with Swedish trotter Annicka did, however, give Anthony his fourth victory in that high level contest, and he finished the season in the Top 15 in the 2011 national drivers' premiership. He drove Vulcan to victory in the 4YO Rubies final in the Harness Jewels series, and he also captained the successful South Island drivers' team in the second "Island-of-Origin" series raced over five heats at Alexandra Park (September 2011).
Overall, 2011/12 was a change-up season for Anthony – fewer drives, better inter-dominion (ID) results, and an unexpected stint as trainer while brother Tim was suspended after Raglan tested positive to arsenic (Miracle Mile - Menangle). His driving wins included another five Group 1s, captured with strong performers such as Vulcan (NZ Trotting FFA, Dominion Trot) and Terror to Love (Taylor Mile, Jewels Emerald). A highpoint of his regular Australian visits was his sixth Hunter Cup victory, partnering Choise Achiever, a light-framed gelding that set a Melton track record (1:59.9) for 3280m standing start to defeat Auckland Reactor by a head. That was 1.2 seconds faster than Stunin Cullen when coincidentally driven by Butt a year earlier.
Anthony added to his ID achievements as well, with Vulcan finishing second to I Can Doosit in the Trot final, while Auckland Reactor (3) and Raglan (1) scored four wins in the Pacing Series lead-up heats in Perth. Unfortunately, Auckland Reactor, whose regular driver Mark Purdon stayed in NZ, faded to seventh in the final, though Raglan, driven by Darren Hancock, came in fourth. Whilst in Perth, Anthony also won with Hostile Grins, trained by son Chris. A recent promising return from injury by Stunin Cullen, some new emerging track stars, and a second victory for the South Island team in the Ïsland-of-Origin" series rounded out a positive season.
Successful Trans-Tasman "raids" continued in 2012/13, courtesy of two leading contenders. Mah Sish claimed three Cups (Hunter, Ballarat and Bendigo) and was runner-up to Im Themightyquinn in the Inter Dominion (Menangle) and Grand Circuit. Vulcan won the inaugural Great Southern Star series with four Group 1 wins in 15 days (including two drives by Greg Sugars), and followed up with the NZ Trotting Championship to capture the Trotting Masters title (Grand Circuit renamed). A fourth Jewels crown came from driving Elusive Chick in the 4YO Diamond for pacing mares, and Stunin Cullen retired on a high note after a Show day win with $1.28m in career earnings.
There were some significant developments with brother Tim as well. An Australian base was established in Victoria, and they initiated an innovative plan to import three Scandinavian trotters, recognising the new Australasian racing opportunities recently created for square-gaiters. Denmark Derby winner Peak was a prime target, and he began his southern hemisphere racing in late 2013.
A gentleman in every way, Anthony has little to prove, but can be relied upon to remain in the limelight for many seasons to come. He has competed in 33 Inter Dominion grand finals, and had won five pacers Consolation finals before the 2009 win marked his first pacing Grand Final victory, to add to his previous three trotting titles. His overall Australasian career wins have passed 1,600, including 85 at Group1 level, and are complemented by some $26.5 million (NZ) in prizemoney.
On a personal note, Anthony has resided at Templeton on the outskirts of Christchurch his whole life to date. Like his parents, grandmother and great-grandmother, he attended Templeton Primary School. Going on to Lincoln High School, he played a lot of rugby before driving horses took over. Reaching a fairly high level in under-age teams, he captained Canterbury Country in South Island under-age tournaments and represented the South Island in the under 16s.
Married to Karen, daughter of mid-Canterbury standardbred trainer Dick Prendergast, they have two children. Son Christopher's early interest in the horses led to his following the family tradition as a reinsman, and more recently as a trainer planning to set up at Menangle (Australia). Daughter Kimberley is a keen netballer who also loves her ponies and the pony club scene.
As well as being an ardent sports fan, supporting Canterbury or All Black rugby games in particular, Anthony is President of the Trainers & Drivers Association Greater Canterbury Branch and also has an interest in property development, while he and Karen race a horse or two in their own right.
|INTER DOMINION DRIVER WINS RECORD FOR
|INTER DOMINION TROTTERS CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL
||Lyell Creek NZ (2000)
Take A Moment NZ (2001, 2003)
|INTER DOMINION PACERS CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL
||Mr Feelgood USA (2009)
|INTER DOMINION CONSOLATION
||Mister D G NZ (2005)
Lombo La Fe Fe (2004)
Happy Asset NZ (1999)
Christopher Vance NZ (1994)
Blossom Lady NZ (1991)
|INTER DOMINION CHAMPIONSHIP HEATS
||Mah Sish NZ (2013)
Auckland Reactor (2012 x 3)
Raglan NZ 2012
Report For Duty NZ (2008)
Tribute NZ (2007)
Foreal NZ (2006)
Mister D G NZ (2004)
Pocket Me NZ (2001)
Anvils Star NZ (1997)
Blossom Lady NZ (1992 x 2, 1993, 1994 x 2, 1995)
||Take A Moment NZ (2001, 2003 x 3)
Frugal Echo NZ (2003)
Game Bid NZ (2002)
Lyell Creek NZ (2000 x 2)
White Horse Pride NZ (1990)
Tussle (1988 x 2)
For a list of Anthony Butt’s Grand Circuit and Major Australian Race wins – click here
For Further Information about Anthony & Tim Butt’s Stables – click here
||2009 Pacing Final
Race footage copyright Harness Racing Queensland
||2003 Trotting Final
Race footage copyright NZ Trackside Tape Sales
||2001 Trotting Final
Race footage courtesy Albion Park Harness Racing Club
||2000 Trotting Final
Race footage courtesy Harness Racing Victoria and Provideo