Colin Butler would not have changed a thing at Alexandra Park last Saturday night (August 31). Friends always come before awards dinners.
Butler had to abruptly leave Saturday night’s North Island Harness Racing Awards Dinner when his long-time mate Bruce Lloyd took crook.
Butler had earlier driven the two hours from Cambridge to Kumeu pick-up Lloyd and then wheelchair him to the function at Alexandra Park.
“Bruce’s health took a turn for the worse. We took him back to Kumeu just after 10pm. I had no idea I was up for an award.
“I thought all the awards had been given out by then. Even if I did know I still would have taken Bruce home. Friends first. It’s always been that way.
“It was an honour to get the award and I’m grateful but I’ve never really been very interested in awards. I don’t like the limelight – I like to dodge it. I only went to give my mate a good night out. My only concern was that my mate is happy and well,” Butler said.
David Butcher accepted the Sir Lincoln at Lincoln Farms Racing Achievement award on behalf of Butler.
It was Butler’s two consecutive Jewels victories with Charlemagne that ensured the Award.
Butler, who said he was “70-plus” years of age, has had an emotional couple of years.
“My wife Raelene was with me when I won my first Group One event at the Jewels at Cambridge. She died a year ago today (Monday September 2). I’ve just put her funeral notice in the local paper. Sadly she missed seeing Charlemagne and Philip Butcher win their second straight Jewels title at Ashburton.
“There is not a day go by when I don’t think of her. Raelene was my rock. We had been married for more than 50 years. She owned more than 50 winners in her own right. I’m sure she would have been proud of the award,” the Cambridge horseman said.
Butler said his association with Lloyd went back 40 years when he first started driving for him at Hutt Park.
“We go back a long way. I couldn’t believe it when I got a text from a friend saying I had won an award and they wanted me to come back. I said I couldn’t – I was half way to Bruce’s place. It was a good night but there was no way I was staying there when my mate was tired and not feeling well,” Butler said.
Butler has trained almost 200 winners and won just under $1m since the 1970s. His last two seasons have been his best winning just over $107,000 each year.
Between 1979 and 2000 Butler won 574 winners from his 5,128 drives. He also placed 1,241 times for $2.73m in stakes.
He said Charlemagne aside, his previous best horse was the DB Flying Fillies champion and eight-win El Patron mare, Yvette Bromac.
“She won that race in 1981 at Alexandra Park. Before Charlemagne came along she was my best. My wife owned her and I drove her,” Butler said.
By Duane Ranger
Courtesy of Harness Racing New Zealand