Harness Racing has lost one of its stalwarts with the passing of Cambridge horseman Colin Butler.
The 81-year-old enjoyed a long and successful career in the sport, which began in 1971 and continued up until last year upon the retirement of his Group One-winning trotter Charlemagne.
As a driver, Butler saluted the judge on 614 occasions and continued driving well into his sixties, while he recorded 296 victories as a trainer.
Many of those were recorded in his own right, but he also enjoyed stints training in partnership with Warren Hodges, Kevin Holmes, and his son Tony.
Family was a big part of Butler’s life and while he had many highlights in his career, it was two horses owned by his late wife Raelyne which provided him with his biggest thrills in the game.
Yvette Bromac had a standout three-year-old season for the Butler’s in 1981, winning eight races, including the Gr.1 DB Flying Fillies’ Stakes (1609m) at Auckland, Gr.2 DB Flying Stakes Fillies’ Stakes (1609m) at Cambridge, and finished runner-up in the Gr.1 North Island Oaks (2700m), and Gr.2 Ballance Stakes (1900m).
More than three decades later Charlemagne gave the couple a great boost when winning the Gr.1 4YO Ruby Mobile Trot (1609m) and Listed 5YO Ruby Mobile Trot (1609m).
Friend and fellow Cambridge trainer Mike Berger said Charlemagne was a great boost for the Butlers, particularly Raelyne, who was in ill health and was only able to witness his first Jewels victory.
“Colin was very family-focused,” Berger said. “The two loves of his life were his family and his horses.
“Charlemagne was like his best mate. He did a great job with that horse. He raced for a long time and won two Jewels.
“They (Jewels victories) were really emotional because Raelyne was pretty sick when he won the first one.”
Berger said Charlemagne was a big part of Butler’s life after the passing of Raelyne.
“He was only working him in his last couple of years training,” Berger said. “They kept each other going.”
Butler was a notable figure around Cambridge Raceway and Berger said he was a well-respected horseman.
“He was a fierce competitor and was very dedicated,” Berger said. “He was a terrific horseman. He said what he thought and had a pretty hard exterior, but he was a big marshmallow inside.
“We had a lot of fun when he came over and he was always good to get advice off.
“He was an excellent farrier. He could pretty much do everything and most of it was self-taught.
“He was such a good old-styled horseman.”