Paddy Butler sends out two runners at Brighton on Tuesday
PICTURE: Mark Cranham (racingpost.com/photos)
THEY must be wedded to it, trainer Paddy Butler and his wife Eileen Lucey-Butler, with her sister Pamela and their son Robert all mucking in, one way and another. To say it’s a labour of love is barely adequate; it’s dedication to a way of life and has been since Butler first got his licence, in 1976.
I’m guessing because I’ve never met any of them, except Eileen when I visited the stable staff canteens she was in charge of at Plumpton and Fontwell. She’s a jolly soul. Robert used to be a jockey and is now studying electrical installation and Pamela is head coach at Plumpton Tennis Club, where Eileen used to play and perhaps still does. Judging from the yard’s results they must feel like giving a tennis ball hell sometimes.
I can’t imagine what Paddy’s business plan looks like, except very strange. Maybe he plays the currency markets with John Magnier, J P McManus and the gang or maybe he does what a lot of small trainers do and gets by on some sort of mysterious miracle.
Today, at Brighton, Butler fires off Sweet Piccolo (2.15) and Sutton Sid (3.45). It’s not far to travel from his stable at East Chiltington, which is just as well because it means it won’t feel a long way home.
I wish I could offer encouragement but the icy water of the Form Book says no. On Sweet Piccolo’s first six runs he finished last, failing to beat any of his 48 opponents. In the six-year-old’s most recent five runs he finished last three times and ahead of only two of his 45 opponents. In 18 tries he has only once finished in the first four and is rated 38. Eileen owns him and co-bred him and he is lucky to have a home.
The same, sadly, goes for Sutton Sid. The six-year-old has won four times but not for over two years and not for Butler. After George Baker and then Chris Gordon each won two races with him, Sutton Sid was claimed to join John Balding, then moved to Ann Stokell, then to Michelle Bryant and then to Butler. Still owned by Bryant, Sutton Sid is returning to the Flat after an abortive spell over hurdles.
As well as owning Sutton Sid, Bryant, a familiar name in amateur riders’ races and owner of a local riding school, owns the stable star, Estibdaad. His five wins last year boosted Butler’s tally to seven, his best ever season. 2015 was also the only Flat season when win prize money reached five figures. The same was true of the 2004/05 season over jumps.
On paper, it’s gloomy. The yard didn’t have a Flat winner until 1985 and there have been 15 winnerless seasons since then. There have been plenty of similar seasons over jumps. Killabraher Cross won at Plumpton in April and let’s hope the first Flat winner of 2016 isn’t far away.
Gloomy on paper but I bet there’s been a lot of fun along the way.
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