Butch Mules: One of a kind

Butch Mules: One of a kind

Sport
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Terry Butts analyses news from the North Queensland racing scene.

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ONE set of statistics claims that our old mate Butch Mules was 57 when he so sadly left us last week in the Barcaldine hospital. And that he rode winners over 40 years worth a total $2,353,005. Maybe.

Stats meant nothing to Butch – who was essentially a man’s man who lived by the day, and not necessarily strictly to the rules.

Roy Butch Mules, from a family of 21, was born in Coonamble NSW but was a Queenslander from his dandruff to his bootlaces.

His had a colourful career – best described as sunshine and shadow a with perhaps a few more dry gullies than lush lawns.

Butch Mules was your typical happy-go-lucky, affable outgoing mate – happiest on a racecourse and or in a public bar. And it didn’t matter where. And it didn’t matter when.

There was only one Butch, known all over Queensland and parts of country NSW. He would give you the shirt off his back, literally.

Help anyone. Harm no one.

He told his great mate Kelly Schweida who visited him a few weeks ago in a Brisbane hospital that he just wanted to go home to Barcaldine and die. And he did that last Thursday after a long, painful battle with a merciless cancer that took everything – including at the very end, his infectious, witty and unique brand of humour.

Schweida remembers the day he turned up at Les McLellan’s Townsville stable with his gear tied up in a knot at the end of a stick. He was 15 and the first thing he did when he arrived was roll a smoke.

“I said to the other boys ‘What have we got here?’”

They were to  become great mates. Butch was the last of a long line of top jockeys to be indentured by the legendary Les McLellan – the Theo Green of Queensland. Paul Gordy, Rusty Davis, Robin Norris, and the near unbeatable Rex Caspaney were others.

Stories of Butch and his exploits abound. Like the time he was in Ipswich with trainer Terry Ramsay, who on one chilly winter’s morning was unable to get his jockey out of bed.

“What’s the temperature?” demanded Butch of his boss. “Minus one,” Ramsay replied.

“Well, it’s minus two now – I’m staying here.”

That was our man.

There are heaps of yarns about the larrikin bush jockey. Like the day at Jundah races where after the meeting on the first day a few jocks, Butch included, sat down with the stipendiary stewards for a game of cards and ample supply of stubbies.

“It was a lot of fun,” recalls jockey Danny Adam. Until next morning.

“The stipes, who drank all night with us, put us on the bag – and of course we all blew over the limit and were stood down.

“I think Butch blew 2.7. He didn’t care. Just opened another can and demanded (unsuccessfully of course) that the stewards also be tested.

“Great bloke.”

RACING Victoria, once the most respected racing authority in the country, and its racing.com TV channel has come under severe criticism in recent days and for good reason, it would appear.

Firstly it caused a stir by allowing CrownBet, the Packer owned corporate bookie, to advertise its AFL markets on its racing channel.

It was pointed out that racing competes with all sports betting and in particular AFL for the punting dollar, but RV is obviously not concerned.

You have to wonder why, particularly in view of the fact that Racing Victoria does not get a cent of wagering revenue from the betting on other sports by corporate bookmakers. But does receive a share of TAB sports betting turnover.

And you might recall it was Racing Victoria  that vehemently opposed the merger of Tabcorp and Tatts.

But that’s not all.

Racing .com has been savagely attacked both here and abroad with criticism over the sacking of popular presenter Sam Hyland.

Hyland will no longer conduct post-race horseback interviews and will be replaced by ex-Sydney jockey Dean Pettit, a former member of the now defunct TVN that folded, buried in debt.

Racing.com CEO Andrew Catterall (ex AFL) defended the Hyland decision in an interview on RSN, claiming he had to "trust" his production team.

“They've made a call that there are other alternatives, or perhaps better alternatives, that we should invest time and training into, and, that will mean working with Dean [Pettit],” Catterall said.

But racing people around the country ask: Why fix something that isn’t broken?

THEN Nick Williams of the famous (or infamous to some, but nonetheless legendary) Melbourne racing family joined the fray with a request for transparency of Racing.com costs

“It’s heading in the same direction as TVN was five years ago.

“Why can't the chief executive of Racing Victoria [Giles Thompson] tell us how much these operations are costing? Or are we just going back to the old days of TVN when we were told nothing until it was too late?” Williams asked.

“No one has explained why having Sydney and Melbourne on one channel at no cost isn't a better outcome than what we've got at the moment,” he added.

A spokesman for RVL responded that detailed operational financials were “commercial-in-confidence”.

SOME startling accusations about some of the main characters in the racing industry of Queensland were made last week by Archie Butterfly (real name) on his website: itsnotnormalisit.com. He also alluded to what we already suspected – that the marriage of Racing Queensland and its integrity arm QRIC is on the rocks and likely to be dissolved as soon as the LNP get back in. No doubt a few of the Tories are hoping that it will be sooner  rather than later because there is a hint that Treasury wish to have a few of the allegations against RQ investigated.

By QRIC. Oh dear!

The iconic Birdsville Cup meeting and Cairns Amateurs clash this weekend and I am tipping more light aircraft around the Birdsville pub than on the tarmac at Cairns. It’s not the first time the meetings have clashed, but they each attract entirely different crowd and distance prevents any clash of racing stables. Interesting this year is that top NQ jockeys Ashley Butler and Adrian Coome have elected Birdsville.

Cairns has attracted good fields over the two days with Flying Spirit the certain topweight and favourite for the Cup. He has been unlucky in both the Townsville and Cairns Cups at his two runs in the north and deserves a Cannon Park win this week. Jockeys Noel Callow, from Melbourne, and Mark Pegus, who has recently taken up a position with leading Queensland trainer Ben Currie, will ride at the meerting. Pegus will ride on Friday and return for mounts at Doomben on Saturday. He is available for Friday rides on 0417 778 238.

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