Homebred Stars Shining for Butler

By Bill Heller

Thanks to his New York-bred stars Rotknee and his half-sister My Mane Squeeze, longtime owner/breeder William “Buck” Butler is enjoying a dream year. So far in 2024 he has six victories, one second and one third from just 11 starts, for earnings of $305,418, all thanks to their dam, his homebred In Spite of Mama. “It’s been a fun ride,” Butler said Thursday.

It’s been a long one.

Butler remembers going with his father, uncle and younger brother to Yonkers Raceway, not far from their home in Westchester: “My younger brother was underage. We had to sneak in. Where I really cut my teeth was Pimlico.”

That was easy while attending Loyola University in Baltimore. “I would sneak away to go to Pimlico,” he said. “I said, `If I ever get a few bucks I’m going to get some horses.’”

He made enough money to remain true to his words. “I have a real estate brokerage and a small building firm in New York City,” Butler said. “I am semi-retired. My son’s taken over.”

And Butler’s horse business has taken off. He credits David Mullen, a friend in Kentucky, for getting him going. “David Mullen told me not to do exactly what I’m doing,” Butler laughed. “He was a great friend, a mentor.” Mullen passed in 2008.

Mullen had introduced Butler to the late trainer Dominic Galluscio, a popular fixture on the backstretches of New York tracks for decades. “Dominic and I were really close,” Butler said. “We vacationed together. There’s nothing negative to say about him. He was an excellent trainer. Dominic would buy horses at the Ocala Sales for me.”

At the 2005 OBS April Two-Year-Olds-in-Training Sale, Butler and Timothy Twomey purchased Mama Theresa, a daughter of Carson City out of Nothing Special by Tejabo, for $65,000. “I’d buy horses at the sales, bring them to New York, and it took me a while to say, `Why am I buying other people’s crap when I can grow my own?’” Butler laughed.

Trained by Galluscio, Mama Theresa posted six victories, six seconds and a pair of thirds in 25 starts, earning $240,898. She was worth even more as a broodmare, producing A Freud of Mama, who was three-for-six and made $339,818, and In Spite of Mama, who has produced My Mane Squeeze and Rotknee. Mike Maker trained all of them.

In Spite of Mama wasn’t a bad racehorse, winning three of 17 starts with two seconds, two thirds and earnings of $164,024. Her progeny has done even better. Credit Butler for his persistence sending Mama Theresa to Speightstown.

“I bred her to Speightstown two years in a row,” Butler said. “We lost the foal both times. A tear in the uterus. We repaired it, and I wanted to go back to Speightstown, and WinStar said, `No.’ So I went out in the market and bought a share to him.” The mating produced In Spite of Mama. “Mama Theresa has been an absolute dream for me,” Butler said. “In Spite of Mama has been an absolute queen. I’m a gambler at heart. All I did was get lucky.”

Rotknee, now five, has won 10 of 19 starts with three seconds and one third, earning $640,580. His half-sister, the three-year-old My Mane Squeeze, is five-for-eight with two thirds and $604,110 in the bank.

Last October 29th, on New York-bred Showcase Day at Aqueduct, My Mane Squeeze won the third race, the Maid of the Mist Stakes, by three lengths. In the ninth race, Rotknee captured the Hudson Stakes by one length. Two stakes winners on the same day by the same mare! “It felt fantastic,” Butler said. “Rotknee is my wife’s favorite, so he’s my favorite. My wife, Loretta, is our biggest fan, an awesome partner.”

In mid-May, Butler sold a half-interest in My Mane Squeeze to Elliott Walden and WinStar Farm. “In my heart, I had said, `No’ enough times,” Butler said. “And the fact that they were very interested in my girl gave me the idea I’m on the right track. I still need to learn. And I have in my short relationship with Elliott.”

In her first start for the Butler-WinStar team, My Mane Squeeze finished eighth in the Grade 2 Fantasy Stakes as the 2-1 favorite. She did have an excuse. “She was in heat,” Butler said. “We saw that as it was happening.”

On May 2nd at Aqueduct, Rotknee won the $97,000 Affirmed Stakes for New York-breds by a length and three-quarters.

The very next day, My Main Squeeze raced in the Grade 2 Eight Belles instead of the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks. Butler almost left before the race. “I perspire an awful lot,” he said. “It was raining. It was humid. I said to my wife, `What am I doing here?’ When I saw my girl in the paddock, I knew why I was there.”

Sent off at 6-1 odds under Luis Saez on the sloppy track, My Main Squeeze looked like a winner the entire way, stalking the early pace, taking over when asked and drawing away to a two-length victory, Butler’s first in a Grade 2 stakes.

On June 7th at Saratoga, My Main Squeeze will try to give Butler his first Grade 1 in the Acorn Stakes. “That’s pretty much what we’re shooting for,” Butler said.

He’s been shooting nothing but aces lately, and his passion for and love of Thoroughbreds has never been stronger. “It’s what Churchill said, `There’s something about the outside of a horse that’s good for the inside of a man,’” Butler said. “I say that out loud and I get choked up.”

He’s sharing this success with his three grandsons, Brooks, Owen and Liam. “I go up with Brooks to the farm and he plays with the mares,” Butler said. “I took him to the track the day before the Eight Belles (to see Rotknee’s race at Aqueduct). We were the only people in the stands who were cheering for Rotknee. My grandson was screaming for Rotknee.”

Odds are he’ll have a lot more screaming to do for Rotknee and his half-sister My Mane Squeeze this summer.  

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