By Garrick Knight
It was the call any young trainer dreams of.
When Auckland owner Aaron Lowe rang Bob Butt late last year offering him Heavyweight Hero to train, Butt couldn’t believe his luck.
“It’s not every day a horse like him comes up the driveway,” said Butt.
“I was very lucky to get that phone call.”
The giant trotter made it two wins in three starts from Butt’s barn when demolishing a field by eight lengths on the grass at Waterlea in Blenheim on Friday.
Given he started off a 35-metre handicap, it was a mightily impressive performance.
“He’s a pretty good horse, so I wasn’t surprised,” said Butt.
“He loves the grass and he did win the Green Mile two starts ago, so he should have had the measure on those.
“There are some nice races coming up for him on the grass, so it’s exciting times.”
Butt, based at Woodend Beach, was sent the son of Muscle Mass for two reasons.
Former trainer Todd MacFarlane was struggling to manage chronic foot ailments that were being exasperated by training and racing on hard surfaces, and the horse wasn’t as comfortable the right-handed way of going at Alexandra Park.
“They felt he was much better left-handed and, because of his feet, he needed beach training.
“I knew Toddy from my time up in Auckland and I guess when they were picking out a beach trainer, I was lucky enough to have that connection.”
Butt says Heavyweight Hero requires “a bit of maintenance” on his feet, but racing on the grass is half the battle.
“The beach usually brings them right, but just getting off those hard tracks has been a huge help for us too.
“That’s the main reason we’ve come up here because there are two suitable races for him.”
He goes around again on Sunday and finds himself against the same horses, but ten metres further back, off a handicap of 45.
Asked if he should be short odds to do the double, Butt was categorical.
“Yes, he’s 10 metres further back, but the race is an extra 500, which will suit him down to the ground. He’ll love it.”
Butt, who also brought up 200 New Zealand driving wins with the victory, has plenty of experience driving good trotters for master trainer Paul Nairn.
He won a Harness Jewels in 2017 with Wilma’s Mate and also enjoyed Group 1 success with Conon Bridge and Lotamuscle.
So, does Heavyweight Hero have what it takes to measure up to the best trotters if he can stay sound for a full campaign?
“Hopefully. He just needs to stay sound and get a bit of confidence.
“He feels like a confidence horse, you know?
“You just never know whether they’ll take that next step, but he certainly has the ability.”
The days’ feature pace on Friday was the Waterlea Cup Prelude, won by Stars Tonight for Robert and John Dunn.
He’ll start favourite in Sunday’s $15,000 Centenary Marlborough Cup given he doesn’t get re-handicapped for the lead-up win, per conditions of the two-day meetings’ programme.