Benjamin Butcher drove 22 winners for Stonewall Stud last season. Photo: Trish Dunell
There was a ‘changing of the guard’ sense at Cambridge on Thursday night as Benjamin Butcher reined home his 100th career winner.
He brought up the milestone behind local mare Jenora, who has been a frustrating horse for punters since joining Mike Berger’s barn in April.
Last night was the first northern meeting since Butcher’s uncle, Phil, retired from driving, and he was also Jenora’s usual pilot.
She’s a mare best saved for one run at them and Benjamin managed to settle her handy to the leaders so she could slingshot them down the straight.
“She’d always been drawing the outside of the second row for Phil and she was having to settle further back than she needs to be,” he said.
“I was lucky in that I managed to get handy enough that she could reel them in down the straight.
“It was just one of those trips that you get which Phil was never lucky enough to lob with her.”
Berger has already been a keen supporter of his, as well as his cousin, Shane, and Butcher hopes they will both get further opportunities this season with their Uncle now retired.
“Mike has been a big supporter of our whole family and I’m we will all continue to drive for him.
“But I know he likes to have a regular driver and that might be Shane, depending on whether he is able to travel with his farrier work.”
Butcher has just finished his breakout season, where he drove 37 winners – second most in the country amongst junior drivers – and earned stakes of more than $440,000.
But with Premiership winner Matt Anderson now graduated from the ranks, Butcher wants to go one better.
“I had a really good season, thanks mainly to the support of Steve Telfer and Stonewall Stud (22 wins), who trusted me to drive a lot of their horses.
“This season I really want to go out and win that premiership and hopefully they’ll be a big part of that again.”
The Telfer-trained Ivana Flybye is one horse Butcher is looking forward to driving in the new season.
“She did a great job last time and I think will come back a better horse from a spell.”
Looking back on his first century of winners, he points to a Sires Stakes heat win with American Brave as the highlight, with a pair of wins behind now-retired mare Better B Amazed a close second.
“That Sires Stakes heat win was quite a big deal for me and, looking back, it’s probably my favourite one so far.”
Butcher would go on to drive American Brave in the Sires Stakes Final on New Zealand Cup day.
Elsewhere on last night’s card, the first of the season, Glenbrook trainer Adrienne Matthews trained a double with Edamfast and Rainbow Wiri.