28 July 2017 | Michael Howard
You can lock in a win for Don Bootle at Shepparton on Saturday night, despite analysts not giving his runner much chance of scoring in her maiden pace.
A race start for the trainer ’s five-year-old mare Winlock will be a victory for the Bootle family, having been the offspring of their unraced stallion Uturnbay and out of their mare Ankles.
“Winlock is one of our own breeds, I’ve had her since she was a foal,” Bootle said. “She’s just a tiny little mare, she’s no bigger than a pony, but she’s got that bulldog attitude and never gives up.
“I’m not sure how she will go first up, she’s a five-year-old and for some reason (Uturnbay’s) horses go better when they are older.”
Bootle has recently relocated to Melbourne’s east from New South Wales, docking at Croydon Light Harness Club’s track and stables.
It’s a long way from Euroma Stud, the family’s Narromine free-range paddock where Uturnbay stands for Bootle’s father, stud and horse owner Terry Bootle.
“He was a very quick horse who would have won races for us,” Bootle said of Uturnbay. “As a young horse Donald Cole in Dubbo had him and we put him out in a paddock.
“It was a wet day and he was running up and down the paddock and slipped over and broke his neck. He’s actually pretty lucky to be around walking.”
Having a staunch dedication to ensuring his horses have a life after racing, Bootle has embraced the potential he saw in Uturnbay, who shares a grandsire, Smooth Fella, with champion trotter Lyell Creek.
“The stallion stays in the paddock in season time and we just keep the mares in,” Bootle said. “Only one has missed foal in the last six seasons.”
“Eight or nine mares” share a paddock with Uturnbay, and when they are not in season he’s taken to Molong, New South Wales, where he occasionally works as a stockhorse.
Of the foals, several have made it to the track and Bootle is optimistic wins and placings will come, but each horse is broken in for saddle as well as sulky.
“You’ve got to look at horses for their after-racing life,” he said. “If a horse is broken into saddle you can sell it as a riding horse.”
For now the family’s focus is on Winlock, who ran fifth of five in her July 9 trial at Yarra Valley and will start from the pole in Saturday’s Bohbron Park Pace (C0) at Shepparton.
“She’s like a little pet to me,” Bootle said. “I broke her in, got her going and then got sick. I gave her to other trainers but they couldn’t get her going. Now I have taken her back and she is going great for me,” he said.
“She put a big effort in (the trial) but tired over the longer distance, but I was happy with how she ran. I’m just looking for her to go around, it doesn’t worry me where she comes. I’ll just be happy to see her on the track and trying her best.
“Some say she can’t run out of sight, but I like to prove people wrong and show what I can do with a horse. I like horses who are a bit temperamental. I like mad horses so you can be challenged and work them out.”
The reins will be handed over to concession reinswoman Monique Barnett tonight – “Winlock prefers lady drivers – she doesn’t like the guys” – and Bootle will hope to begin his Victorian training with an honest effort.
“Being her first start I don’t really expect much, but as long as she gets around nicely and gives me her true race I’ll be happy.”
Listen in to our chat with trainer Don Bootle on the TrotLine: