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Boots and All

When Les Boots walked into the stables of Harry Butler, he just wanted to be a jockey just like Alec Fullarton, the great jumps jockey.

The previous day he had been to Oakbank when Kinjin, ridden by Alec Fullerton, won the Great Eastern Steeplechase, he was that hoarse he could hardly speak from all the cheering and shouting.

He eventually became apprenticed to Harry Butler at Glenelg, he rode of much of the work, he mucked out the boxes and all basic chores an apprentice expected to do all in a day’s work.

Harry called Les in and told him he could ride Umtalia in a few weeks in a jumping race at Cheltenham, the horse was a safe jumper and he would have no troubles.

The horse kept his side of the bargain but obviously Les didn’t, they parted company at the first jump, the horse galloped off while Les was left behind counting all his bruises.

After two more rides with the same result, his wife had a brain wave, she would pack a set of pyjamas in his racing bag, they were sure to come in handy.

At this stage his strike rate was hardly impressive, three rides, three falls, three trips to hospital, the pyjamas served a useful purpose.

One of the nurses at the Adelaide Hospital noticed the matron was paying some attention to the form guide in a newspaper, ” having a bet?” she asked, “no, just checking if we have to make up a bed for Mr Boots”.  

Les Boots rode in 39 races and had 40 falls, one horse he fell from he remounted and fell off again.

He had no trouble riding work, but once he put the colours on for a race he always fell, they seemed to be a jinx.

The racing administration didn’t show much interest in invoking his riding licence; they believed he did no harm to racing in any way.

You could say Les had a checked career, even the race starter when he sent the field away would call out, “see you later in the week Les”.

Les had two ambitions to ride a winner, and ride over the fences at Aintree in England.

Everyone said I’d probably have been the first jockey to have drowned at the water jump.

Les Boots died at 80, he was a jumps jockey for 18 years, 12 of those years was spent in hospital, he had broken every bone in his body except his nose.            


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