Racing: No-nonsense charm from Admiral's man

Trainer Gerard Butler (left) aims to continue denting reputations in the 2,000 Guineas. By Sue Montgomery

IT TAKES a brave man to pluck an unknown from the ranks to head up a brand-new venture in one of the riskiest sporting businesses there is. But so far, the appointment of Gerard Butler does not look like one that Erik Penser will regret.

The pair, the tall stockbroker from Stockholm and the intense young Irishman with the polyglot accent, are turning into reality a dream hatched high up on the downland above Blewbury in Oxfordshire. At Penser's state-of- the-art training establishment, built from scratch on a 1,500-acre estate 18 months ago, Butler has charge of a horse, Compton Admiral, who has twice dented lofty reputations in his short career and will be aiming to do so again in the 2,000 Guineas on Saturday.

Penser, 56, started his love affair with English racing 39 years ago as a teenager in London. He is now developing his passion with the long- sighted and level-headed business sense that has brought him the means to do so. His small stud at Compton Beauchamp, near Lambourn, has already produced a Group One winner in Beauchamp King and the first batch of 10 yearlings bought to help populate the new yard contained Compton Admiral.

And although questions of the "who he?" variety were asked abroad when it was announced that Butler, 32, was to take the reins at Churn Stables, there is no disputing his provenance. Before he was head-hunted from Beauchamp King's trainer, John Dunlop, he had served his time with D Wayne Lukas and Rodney Rash in the States, at Coolmore Stud in his native Ireland, and with Colin Hayes in Australia. He is reputedly one of the few assistants that Dunlop, as good a judge of a man as a horse, was genuinely sorry to lose.

There could hardly be a greater contrast in environment than Lukas's trackside American training barns and the leafy, tranquil acres of the historic Arundel Castle grounds where Dunlop practises his skills. There is a commonality, though - excellence. "With men like them," said Butler, "you learn to do things right. You learn to pay attention to detail, you learn the work ethic. When you work with Wayne Lukas, if you can last a day you can probably last a year. It is a very intensive, very pressurised environment, 365 days a year. He demands a lot and when success comes you drink to it with hot chocolate and you're back in the barn the next day.

"Most businessmen would need 14 days to get through as much as John Dunlop does in a week. And if he had been in charge of the Titanic we'd be looking at her today down in Southampton water."

Horses have always been part of Butler's life, brought up as he was on the Curragh. He includes his father, Tony, on his list of mentors. "We had to work for our oats at home as well," he said, "and if it wasn't for my dad behind me, I'd probably be kicking stones down in Kildare right now." But perhaps unusually - for most kids want to be David Beckham, not Alex Ferguson - training was his objective from an early age. He'd hang about racecourses watching the men in the trilbies, not the jockey caps.

His tunnel vision has brought him 38 horses and top-grade facilities. The focus of attention in the barn is a perky little bay colt with a bright white star between his eyes and a thoroughly professional attitude. And his success to date - and by implication, that of his trainer - has not been such a surprise to those closest to him as to outsiders. "Yes, it is something to have an above-average horse so early in this venture, but that is actually what we've been planning for," he said.

"We try to do everything as best we can and give the cream, when it comes, the opportunity to rise to the top. That is what an operation like Godolphin, which should be a marker for everyone, does. You can't guarantee getting the top athletes but you should be able to guarantee preparing them correctly if you do."

Should the Admiral shine at Newmarket on Saturday the pressure on Butler will intensify on the run-up to the next target, the Derby. But that's fine by him. "It's what I've been working for all those years," he said, "and I know I'm very lucky to have been given the opportunity to be in this position. It is a tough job but I'll do my best to keep ahead of the posse."

Butler mixes his metaphors with the same transatlantic charm as his accent. "If you can't step up to the plate when you're called then you shouldn't be in the game," he said, "And we've got those goalposts in our sights."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Savvy Media Ltd: Media Sales executive - Crawley

£25k + commission + benefits: Savvy Media Ltd: Find a job you love and never h...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Solicitor NQ+ Oxford

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CORPORATE - Corporate Solicitor NQ+ An excelle...

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin