Terry Grange | Harnesslink | 20 April 2021

Australasia’s all-time Grand Circuit leading trainer Tim Butt has broken through for his first win since relocating his harness racing stable to Victoria last month. 

Three-year-old colt Swayzee (Rock N Roll Heaven – Lettucereason (Art Major) toughed it out in the Shelford Women’s Cricket Team 3YO pace at Geelong, to give Tim and his wife Andrea their first victory since relocating from Menangle to Sunbury.  

To make the moment even sweeter, Swayzee was driven by the couple’s son Riley – emblematic of the family focus of what is now a more streamlined and “boutique” training operation. 

“We’re settling in very well in Victoria, we love it.  The opportunities, the prospects for the sport here, everything – but it is nice to get a win!” Butt said. 

“While Riley is here, our other son Rhys is at university in New Zealand but his classes are all by remote learning at the moment, so he’s decided to come over here to work for us as well. 

“And our daughter Kate does our social media part time and starting her own photography business.  So the only one not here is another daughter Leah, who is a hockey player for Canterbury back home.”

 

To make the moment even sweeter, Swayzee was driven by the couple’s son Riley – emblematic of the family focus of what is now a more streamlined and “boutique” training operation.

“We’re settling in very well in Victoria, we love it.  The opportunities, the prospects for the sport here, everything – but it is nice to get a win!” Butt said.

“While Riley is here, our other son Rhys is at university in New Zealand but his classes are all by remote learning at the moment, so he’s decided to come over here to work for us as well.

“And our daughter Kate does our social media part time and starting her own photography business.  So the only one not here is another daughter Leah, who is a hockey player for Canterbury back home.”

The Butt team is based at the Sunbury property of Ahmed Taiba, and Butt said access to suitable training facilities was one of the key reasons behind the move.

“We love Sydney and we enjoyed the training centre environment at Menangle, but we were having some soundness problems with some of our horses.  When you are at a training centre, you’re not master of your own fate, and you’re reliant of the expertise of other people.  At Menangle, the attitude was that it’s a racetrack that we have to train on – I felt that I wasn’t doing justice to the horses.

“Ahmed’s setup here is really good.  A 1000-metre track with a terrific surface, and which Ahmed and I manage ourselves, plus indoor facilities like a walker, water walker and a swim.  But another big factor is getting back to training the horses from the paddock, which I love.”

Butt makes no secret that seeking opportunities for boom French trotter Holzarte Vedaquais was a key factor in the move south.

Holzarte Vedaquais is raced by a large syndicate of owners and had his first start for the Butt stable in the Victoria Derby heats in October.  The colt raced fiercely and broke – but not before displaying the ability that allowed him to finish top three in all of his nine starts abroad, including four wins.

“There is so much more opportunity for trotters down here, so we’re giving him time to acclimatise, settle in and be ready to go in some of the big races in spring,” Butt said.

While the process of re-establishing is always challenging, Butt said the family was working to a plan to refocus on quality, rather than quantity.

“We think there are more opportunities in Victoria, especially for trotters,” he said.

“We’ve brought 16 horses down with us and there are some handy ones among them, so at the moment, the four of us are managing between us.

“Once we rebuild we will look at whether we need some additional staff.  But we’re planning to keep the team not too much bigger than this, and to rebuild with quality, so that by around Christmas we have a boutique team of high-class horses.

“We think we’ve bought some good yearlings at the sales last week – a really lovely trotter ($90K Quaker Jet – Glenferrie Burn) and six others, so we’re looking forward to the future.

“It’s a challenging time and rebuilding is not easy in this game, but you have to keep positive, and hopefully the powers-that-be make the decisions that help us all progress.”