YEAR: 2012



Zac Butcher drove his first Group One winner and trainer Barry Purdon had his best night at southern headquarters in a long time when Cheer The Lady triumphed in a thrilling $100,000 Canterbury Breeders New Zealand Oaks at Addington last Friday night.

After going out on his own account, Purdon won the 2YO Sales race back in 1996 when Gran Montana upset Bogan Fella and brother Mark, but his biggest night out at Addington before this was a couple of years later when Holmes D G won the Derby and Anvil Vance the Easter Cup. Purdon has won the Oaks before with Pacific Flight and Julie Vance back in the early 90s, but that was when training with father Roy and Mark drove.

For young Butcher, 21 last month, this was easily a highlight in a career which has been rapidly heading skyward for four seasons now. Wins by Bettor Sweet and Cheer The Lady took his tally this term to 96, just two behind his father David in the race behind Dexter Dunn (145) by the close of the meeting. In his previous three seasons as a junior, Butcher has won 18, 45 and 59 races. The latter figure took him into third among the juniors, but he has Matt Williamson well covered this season and the century is only a matter of weeks away.

Butcher, who won last years Gr2 Delightful Lady Classic in Auckland with Precious Rose, made a critical decision at the 1300m which ultimately paved the road to gold. He was following Twist And Twirl at this point, but when she made her move from four back in the running line to eventually wrestle the lead off Here We Go Again, Butcher opted to stay in when most would have latched on. Another critical point came passing the 700m when Living The Dream, who had followed Twist And Twirl, began to give ground and carted Pemberton Shard and Elusive Chick back with her.

Butcher was improving three wide on the back of Precious Rose while all this was happening, and a short time later Cheer The Lady was able to drop into the one-one. In effect Cheer The Lady had spent little in manoeuvring into such a challenging position, and she had Twist And Twirl covered early in the run home. O Baby, favoured by a good draw on this occasion but inconvenienced by the stubborn longshot Strata Star for a good half mile, had a brief time in the lead before winding up four back. She had some luck when Elusive Chick moved one off and got lost, the three back position enabling her to out finish Here We Go Again for a close third.

This was a frenetically run affair on a bitterly cold and windy night and Cheer The Lady's 3:11.6 was the second fastest ever recorded behind De Lovely's 3:10.9 two years ago, which was the third of David Butcher's three Oaks within seven years. "Things panned out really well in the end, but you need a bit of luck in these races," said Butcher. "She's a tough sort which follows speed really well. Twist And Twirl fought back in the run home, but when I gave my filly another one she went again," he added.

By Bettor's Delight and the fourth of four consecutive filly foals from the Albert Albert mare Galleons Cheer, a granddaughter of No Regrets, Cheer The Lady was bred by Gary Allen and prepared by Aimee Edmonds for the second day of the 2010 Premier Sale, where Purdon sorted her out for $57,500. She was one of seven sales purchases that year by Purdon for a syndicate comprising the 18-member Auckland syndicate Clear View Racing No.2 headed by Len Oughton, along with Terry Henderson, Kevin Riseley, Ted Edwards, Hawkes Bay's Thomas Corson and John Lohman, the latter on hand from Perth. Six of those yearlings have raced and five have won, with the others including Precious Rose($126,650) and Smo($47,528), with only a Real Desire colt not making the grade.

"Cheer The Lady never really impressed us at all last year until a few weeks before the NZ Cup meeting when she resumed at Cambridge," said Purdon. "I wasn't confident then and when she got parked, I thought we're in trouble here, but she just got beat a nose. Then she won in Auckland a week later and she hasn't looked back since. She's a great doing filly - the only thing that bothers her in not enough feed - and she's kept improving with racing and as she's got stronger," he added.

Purdon decided not to make the $15,000 late payment for the Fillies Series, as "you had to win a heat to justify that and then you could draw bad in the final." This meant he could freshen her with a six week break from racing after winning at Alexandra Park in mid March, where she erased Carabella's NZ record in posting 2:40.7 (MR 1:57.5) for 2200m mobile, and set her for the Oaks and Jewels. Apart from driving Precious Rose into second in the Sires' Stakes behind Twist And Twirl at Christmas, Butcher has driven the long striding and deceptively fast Cheer The Lady in all her 11 races this season, where she has now recorded six wins, two seconds and two thirds for $109,717.

Credit: Frank Marrion writing in HRWeekly 23May2012

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