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By Graham Potter | Thursday, March 17, 2022

‘It’s La Amigo and Morgan Butler again’ said Race-caller Josh Fleming as the lightly raced Stuart Kendrick trained four-year-old cruised to victory in a BM68 contest at the Sunshine Coast last Sunday to secure his third successive victory and his fourth win from only eight starts.

While the horse and rider combination have been achieving a notable, progressive, pleasing set of results which would have left punters nodding their heads with approval, as always, there is a background story to their success which perhaps epitomises all of the hard work that trainers and jockeys have to put in to earn any success.

Essentially, it is about a horse that is not easy to train or ride ... his trainer describes him as 'quirky' ... and a jockey finding his way back to race riding.

For Butler, in particular, this episode, as low key as it might be in the grand scheme of racing’s broader landscape, has been a beacon of light in helping revive his riding career.

Butler won’t trumpet that angle though. In fact, when asked about his association with La Amigo, he is as forthright as he is honest … and he also offers an uncomplicated view of where he thinks he stands in the jockey ranks.

“I’ve been on the La Amigo for six races for four wins, a second and a third,” said Butler.

“It had two starts prior to me riding him in a race. In the first start he missed the kick, charged up, wanted to run off the track … did a hell of a lot wrong.

“They turned him out and brought him back again. I trialled him twice and he trialled like he is racing now … very well … but when they took him to town first-up, again he was really difficult. He kinda came out a bit slow … pulled real hard, run off the track a bit and just fell in a heap.

“Stuart (Kendrick) gave me my first race ride on him in his next start in the step from 1000m to 1200m,” continued Butler. “He pulled real hard and he ended up leading by a long, long way … I didn’t mean to do that.

“I was actually trying to teach him to get into a nice rhythm without going too hard but, obviously, he is such a big horse with a big stride that was easier said than done.

“Even now … when he has got four wins behind his name … he is still a very difficult ride. Even in that last win, when he got two or three in front, he still pulled real hard and you have got to be careful not to swing against him too much because he will just take off on you or run off the track.

“There is that happy medium you have got to try to keep him at.

“I’ve obviously got to know him well because I ride him in all of his work, and a jockey getting on him for the first time might struggle with him a little bit but, to be fair, although the horse has been going well for me, I’d like to see one of the good jockeys get on him when he goes to town.

“I’m happy to stick with the horse, but it wouldn’t bother me if another jockey gets on because I want to see the horse take that next step. I helped bring him along as much as I can to this stage.

“At the end of the day, I think he is a quality horse and I think he has got a lot of talent, so I would want to see a good jockey on him if he is going to go for the better races.

“I think he will improve again after that last win. I liked the way he finished off the 1200m. He was real strong. I tried to nurse him as long as I could, but when I asked him there was nothing catching him. I was really pleased with him.

“I haven’t had a lot of other rides for Stuart (Kendrick) … and to be fair to Stuart, that is because he employs me as a trackwork rider. He never employed me as a jockey.

“I only came back to race-riding for the last seven months. My weight went up to 65kg and I was only a trackwork rider and I was employed for that reason so there was no obligation for Stuart to give me race rides … but Stuart gave me the ride on this fella and he has stuck solid with me, so I thank him for that.

‘I’m just so happy I could play a part in the progress of this horse.

“Horses like La Amigo opens up doors for a jockey like me,” said Butler.

“I had twelve years out of the saddle through injury. I had a bad fall in 2009. I trained for a few years and I had a bit of luck, but just not as much luck as I would have liked.

“Making my comeback to race riding has been hard,” acknowledged Butler. “not least coming to terms with the whip rule which wasn’t there when I last rode.

“It’s just so competitive in the riding ranks. You have got so many talented, young riders out there … the Lloyd brothers are sensational … and you’ve got some real good senior riders like Jimmy Orman. If Jimmy was two kilos lighter, I would rate him Australia’s best!

Being the weight he is does limit his opportunities for rides, but he is a gun rider. You can’t get better than him in Queensland … so, like I said, if you are replaced by a rider like Jimmy Orman you don’t complain.”

Where La Amigo and Morgan Butler go next … whether it be together or on separate paths … will be a story for another time.

The bottom line is that the chapter in La Amigo’s career that has already been written stands as a absolute credit to Stuart Kendrick for his training expertise and for his decision making in putting a rider on in these formative stages of La Amigo’s career who looks to have best suited the purpose at this time … and, of course, to Morgan Butler, who similarly deserves all of the success that he has achieved aboard his headstrong mate, La Amigo.

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Photos: Graham Potter
Photos: Graham Potter
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