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Paul Buttigieg

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Phil's Dream, Nearctic, Woodbine, 13th October 2013

Trained by Paul Buttigieg, Sire: Philanthropist. Dam: Dream a Dream

Fifty-one years ago, when he first went to a racetrack, Paul Buttigieg couldn’t have imagined the success he would have in a sport he knew little about. He vividly remembers his first visit to Woodbine in 1962. He was 15 years old. “It was beautiful,” he said. Buttigieg immediately got a job on a nearby farm and, like everyone else, began at the bottom. “I was mucking out stalls,” he said. “Owning a farm was my dream.”

That dream came true. And that was before Phil’s Dream provided Buttigieg with a rare triple by winning the Grade I Nearctic Stakes at Woodbine, Oct. 13. Phil’s Dream was bred and is owned and trained by Buttigieg.

“He started with nothing, and look what he’s got now,” Ricky Hayashi, Buttigieg’s assistant trainer, said. “He’s got his own farm, and in the last few years, he’s upgraded his broodmare stock. He’s done nothing but good.” They’ve been working together for 40 years.

The Buttigieg Training Centre in Edberg, Ontario, an hour’s drive north from Woodbine, is home to 150 Thoroughbreds.  

Phil’s Dream isn’t Buttigieg’s first major success. Rushiscomingup won the 1998 Nearctic and earned nearly $400,000. Strait From Texas captured the 2003 Grade II Nassau and made nearly $600,000. More recently, Buttigieg’s home-bred Gypsy Ring, who was third by a neck in the 2011 Nearctic, earned $686,619. 

Phil’s Dream may be better than all of them. His victory in the Nearctic was his third straight and sixth in his last seven starts. The five-year-old gelding has never been better. This is heady stuff for Buttigieg. “I always had a small stable with horses I bought for $5,000 and $10,000,”he said. “Then I started breeding about 20 years ago.”

Buttigieg gets up at 3 a.m. every morning; drives to Woodbine; leaves there around 10 a.m., and is back at the farm by 11. Hayashi saddles all the racehorses. “I enjoy both worlds, training them and working on the farm,” Buttigieg said. “I love the game.” 

To read Trainer Magazine's Trainer of the Quarter profile on Paul, click here