Butcher and May driving at championship
Zac Butcher, from Barry Purdon's Clevedon stable, and Methven farmer Ricky May fittingly represent the young and the old for the 24th American Ideal Provincial Drivers' Championship at Ascot Park on Sunday.
Ace junior driver Butcher, aged 21, and 54-year-old May, a veteran of six New Zealand Cup wins and 2286 in total, might be 33 years apart but agree that the popular series has done much to promote the industry and develop competitor's skills and opportunities.
''I went to Invercargill for the first time to represent Auckland there last year and I can't wait to get back on Sunday,'' Butcher said.
''The people down there are very helpful and friendly and really look after us so well.''
May has represented mid-Canterbury in all previous 23 editions, often in tandem with the O'Reilly brothers and John Hay.
''What pleases me most is that the series always more than pays its way for the Invercargill club. I've often asked how they come out of it financially and it pleases me that they do well,'' he said.
''Off course betting must be helped by most of the best drivers around the country taking part.''
Butcher and Brent Mangos this time hope to go one better than last year when they were runner-up to Waikato's Todd Mitchell and Butcher's father David who took individual honours then and returns with Peter Ferguson to defend Mooloo's 2011 team title.
Zac Butcher has made meteoric progress considering he didn't want to be a horseman as a secondary schoolboy.
''I didn't want to go into the industry but Dad got me out of school to help him. I had one year with him and then joined Barry Purdon...I am now pleased my father forced my hand.''
Young Butcher had gained 256 wins and 19 this season after a late start forced by suspension in Australia.
He became a household name by posting 115 wins last season as a 20-year-old and gaining his first Group I win with Cheer the Lady in the New Zealand Oaks, also winning the Breeders Crown in Victoria with her.
''I will continue to work for Barry Purdon who is a great boss next season and also pick up the odd other drive,'' Butcher said of his future, which might be marked by joining his father on the coveted 1000 New Zealand wins Roll of Honour.
May has no intention of retiring, ''especially when I can drive for people like Greg and Nina Hope and Benny Hill,'' he said.
''In fact I will continue to drive until I feel I am not performing to my best or when I am not enjoying it the same.''
May said his core occupation as a farmer might help him to drive longer than some of his contemporaries.
''It is very full on nowadays in racing, but I can gain some mental relief from horses by farming, even after a hard and busy day,'' he said.
May topped the national premiership in 2003-2004 with 105 wins and is the country's top driver on a stakes won basis with $618,164 this season.
He gained individual provincial championship honours in in 2005 and 2008 and helped mid-Canterbury to win team honours in 1994, 1996 and 1997.
The Southland Times