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James H. Butwell

James H. Butwell
Induction Year: 
1984
Career Years: 
1907-1928
Number of Mounts: 
7,106
Number of Winners: 
1,402
Winning Percentage: 
19.70%

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Bio

    James “Jimmy” Butwell was born in Michigan in 1892. He served as a stable boy and exercise rider for three years before he debuted as a jockey in 1907 at a small track in Colorado. It didn’t take Butwell long before he established himself as one of the sport’s elite riders.

 

    In 1909, Butwell signed a contract to ride for James R. Keene and moved his tack to New York. In his first year riding for Keene, Butwell rode 153 winners, including Sweep in the Belmont Futurity, Olambala in the Saratoga Cup, Hilarious in the Withers Stakes, Hall of Famer Maskette in the Ladies Handicap, and De Mund in the Toboggan Handicap.

 

   Butwell won the Belmont Stakes in 1910 aboard Sweep for Keene, and he took the 1917 Belmont with Hourless for August Belmont II. In 1913, Butwell won the Preakness Stakes for John Whelan with Buskin. Butwell also won two the Travers twice, capturing the 1914 edition with Hall of Famer Roamer and the 1917 running with Omar Khayyam.

 

   Butwell always considered Roamer the best horse he ever rode. He won 15 stakes races aboard the Hall of Famer. Butwell said the only horse he ever saw that was better than Roamer was fellow Hall of Famer Man o’ War.

 

    “In my book, Roamer was the second-greatest horse in the world. He could scat from the gate in less than 22 seconds and hold on like a bulldog,” Buttwell said. “The greatest horse in history? Well, I got mighty tired of chasing Man o’ War. I never saw anything but his tail. There’ll never be another like him.”

 

   Along with his two wins in both the Belmont and Travers, and his Preakness score, Butwell won the Withers Stakes (3), Belmont Futurity Stakes, Ladies Handicap, Toboggan Handicap (2), Adirondack Stakes, Kentucky Oaks, Matron Stakes, Tremont Stakes (2), Queens County Handicap, Saranac Handicap, Remsen Stakes, King Edward Stakes, Toronto Handicap Cup, and Queen’s Plate.

 

   Butwell was the nation’s leading money-winning rider in 1912 with earnings of $79,843. He led all jockeys in races won in 1920 with 152 victories from 721 mounts. When he retired in 1928, Butwell led all North American jockeys with 1,402 career victories, which included 168 stakes wins.

 

   James Butwell was inducted into the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame in 1984.

 

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