So Des Flos, the horse who gave me my first Irish winner and first over jumps when winning at Fairyhouse in December, had me back in the winner’s enclosure at that same track last Saturday when winning the Ladies Grand National at the Easter Festival. I am really enjoying my racing and point-to-pointing at the moment, so hopefully that win will help get my name out there and bring about further opportunities.

I went to boarding school from the age of 11, so had to make the most of the time I had at home. Racing was always in the blood. My mother, Emily, rode as an amateur and this was the route I wanted to go down.

I had my own pony, so did a lot of eventing and hunting. I rode plenty of pony racing too and got a couple of winners along the way. That was a great experience; it really taught me the ropes.

My dad (John Butler) trains in Newmarket, so that allowed me to gain experience riding the flat horses and to tidy up my riding. Being a full-time boarder until 18, I had to juggle the time as best I could. I came back the odd weekend and also used to get Mum to collect me from school in the lorry to go and gallop my pointer – during which time the school thought I had physio.

I always wanted to race-ride but knew I had to have something to fall back on just in case that didn’t work out. After secondary school, I did a Horseracing Industry Degree at Hartpury University. It was a four-year degree condensed into two, so it was quite helpful to get it done in that shorter time.

This really helped to broaden my knowledge within the racing industry and provided me with a solid grounding, moving forward.

First winners

I had my own pointer at home and I also went into a few small family-run point-to-point yards in the mornings and caught up with the university work in the afternoons. I rode out for Dad when I could too, but put most of my energy into completing the degree. I had a handful of rides on the track and rode a winner for Dad at Southwell (Split Elevens).

That was something that we both got a lot of satisfaction from. He only trains flat horses though and the weight would be quite low for me, so I always preferred the jumpers. I had about 30-odd rides in point-to-points and rode eight winners in the UK.

I came over to Ireland around August last year and was working full-time for Shark (Hanlon). After a bit, I was riding out for a few different trainers, including doing a day a week in Gordon Elliott’s.

In December, I got the ride on So Des Flos at Fairyhouse, which ended up being my first winner. To get the ride for a big trainer like Gordon was brilliant but I didn’t go out expecting the horse to win. It was a nice surprise on the day.

Right now, I go into Gordon’s every Wednesday and I am down in Harley Dunne’s in Wexford another couple of days. I ride out for Scobie (Fitzgerald) and Dusty (Sheehy) as well.

Schooling young horses

It has been an eye-opener going into the point to point yards over here, in which I have gained so much experience schooling young horses which has really brought me on and helped develop my riding.

I had seen that So Des Flos was entered for the Ladies National, so I was delighted when Gordon put me back up on the horse. He has so many in there that you usually end up riding a different horse each day. Although I have now ridden So Des Flos to win twice on the track, I have yet to sit on him at home!

He was quite a big price on Saturday but clearly likes Fairyhouse. Dad is flat out at home at the moment, so none of the family were able to make it over to Fairyhouse. They all watched on television though and I spoke to them after the race.

I plan on staying amateur for the time being. I want to gain more experience and a few more rides on the track, then go from there and see.

Whatever happens with the riding, I definitely want to stay in the racing industry long term. That was the reason I did the diploma in the first place. Bloodstock and training would be something I am very interested in down the line.

As well as Dad (in Newmarket), my grandfather and uncle Micky (Butler) have the training licence here in Ireland.

For now though, I want to put all my energy into making it as a jockey. Hopefully So Des Flos win will open up more doors for me.

Charlotte Butler was in conversation with John O’Riordan