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Excitement has replaced nerves for superstar reinsman Zachary Butcher as he looks forward to the biggest fortnight of his racing life.
Butcher heads to Victoria on Saturday to prepare the first horse he has ever trained, Zeuss Bromac, for the Breeders Crown, which culminates in a A$300,000 final at Melton on August 24.
That is huge money by harness racing standards, even more so for a young horseman whose first representative has only had three career starts.
Butcher is usually unflappable for one so young and twice this year he has dared to hand up to favoured rivals on exceptional filly Belle Of Montana well into group one races and backed himself to get his passing lane timing right.
In both the Victoria Oaks and Harness Jewels, he was right.
Then again, nobody should be surprised. This is the same youngster who a few years ago extravagantly jumped up out of the sulky seat and stood upright on the sulky shafts at full speed at the end of at Alexandra Park race to celebrate beating his father David home in the national premiership for the first time.
So confidence isn’t an issue, even though Butcher admits he was nervous when Zeuss Bromac gave him his first win as a trainer last month.
“Your first win is something special and even though it was only a maiden I was really nervous going out for that,” he says.
“But I’m not about going to Australia. It is exciting and a great opportunity so I am going to go enjoy it.
“The bottom line is I have a good horse who is getting better all the time and we get to race for big money without having to take on Mark’s (Purdon) best horses.
“I know the Aussies won’t be easy to beat but for that sort of money you wouldn’t think they should be.”
Zeuss Bromac suffered a minor setback with a bad blood report that cost him a lead-up race three weeks ago but his work this week has been very strong.
“He is jumping out of his skin and with his heat next week I think that will bring him on heaps.”
Butcher will also partner Perfect Stride, trained by his boss Ray Green, in his heat next week but before he heads to Victoria he has a couple of winning chances at Cambridge’s season-opener tonight.
His best hope is former southern trotter One Over Da Skye (race seven) who has joined the John and Josh Dickie stable but the latter isn’t driving tonight as he is already in Victoria preparing for Sunday’s Trotting Derby.
“The way she trialled last week she will be very hard to beat if she trots all the way,” says Butcher.
“She galloped early last Saturday but trotted her last mile in 2:4 and she is apparently better left-handed. So she might have too much speed for most of her rivals,” says Butcher, who has driven several of the other favoured runners in the race.
Butcher also rates another Dickie newcomer in Breaking Bad (race three) as an each way chance but says in race four his drive Im A Denny Too might struggle to beat debutante Hampton Banner, who horse he knows well since it is trained by Green.