Teenager Captures Friday Opener at Laurel Park
LAUREL, MD – In his only mount of the day and 11th since bringing his tack to Maryland at the start the month, 16-year-old apprentice Bryson Butterfly picked up his first winner at Laurel Park when Alpha Queue cruised to a front-running 7 ¼-length triumph in Friday’s opener.
It was the 18th career win from 179 mounts for Butterfly, who launched his career in May at Grants Pass in Oregon and currently rides with a seven-pound weight allowance. Alpha Queue ($6), owned and trained by Lacey Gaudet, ran six furlongs in 1:10.84 over a fast main track.
In the claiming event for 3-year-olds and up, Alpha Queue was pressed through an opening quarter-mile in 23.19 seconds by Pet’s Night before gaining separation after going a half in 46.59. Butterfly and Alpha Queue straightened for home with a five-length lead and rolled through the stretch to earn his second lifetime win from 10 starts.
“It’s insane to just even win a race here. The course is beautiful,” Butterfly said. “The horse felt really good. I knew coming to the quarter pole when I smooched at him I had so much horse left. He finished really nicely. It was a great win. It felt awesome.”
Butterfly is a Native American originally from Washington State with family in the Blackfeet Tribe of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation of Montana. Established by treaty in 1855 and located on 1.5 million acres along the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains in the northwestern part of the state, Blackfeet Nation is one of the 10 largest tribes in the United States with 17,321 members.
“My brother has won a few championships in roping, and my other brother was riding Indian relay, so we’re all kind of a big part of horses,” Butterfly said. “My mom is a horse trainer. I was galloping horses when I was 8. I rode my first gate race when I was 12. I owe it all to my mom. She was the one that helped me get here.”
Butterfly’s mother, Amy Nelson, is an ex-jockey who rode briefly in Canada and now has a stable based in Arizona. Her most recent starter was April 22 at Turfway Park. She has 21 career wins as a trainer since 2004.
“When I was little, we used to break horses for people and we used to go up in the mountains and ride them. She was the one that got me into a gallop saddle,” Butterfly said. “She used to ride before I was born. I always just wanted to try it. I galloped my first horse, which was my barrel horse at the time, and just fell in love with it from there. She’s just helped me through so much. She’s gotten me to where I am now.”
Butterfly picked up his first winner June 1 at Grants Pass aboard Hey Wilmaaa. He split time between there and Emerald Downs in Washington with stops at Oregon Livestock and Crooked River in Oregon and Arizona Downs before landing in the Midwest.
He rode at Ellis Park and Indiana Downs from July 30 to Sept. 23 before coming to Maryland, where his first race came Oct. 1 on You Can Never Tell. He is represented by agent Marty Leonard, who also has the book for Jevian Toledo and the injured Sheldon Russell.
“Jimmy McNerney is from Indiana. He’s the announcer at Ellis Park. He’s an agent and he was asking if I’d like to go back and forth and ride Kentucky and Indiana,” Butterfly said. “It’s always been a dream of mine to ride in Kentucky, so I went over there and did that for a while. It was fun, a great experience. I loved it.
“He and I split ways and then Ron Anderson was talking to a friend of mine and asking about me and asking how I was and if I had an agent, so I gave him a call,” he added. “He referred me to Marty and Marty asked if I’d like to come over to Maryland.”
Before Friday, Butterfly’s best finish was a third with Little Man Farm’s Double Fireball, trained by Anthony Aguirre, Oct. 3. Butterfly, who stands 5-foot-7 and doesn’t turn 17 until April 6, 2022, is staying with fellow jockey Richard Monterrey.
“The transition has been great. Everyone has been so nice. It was great for Richard to give me a spot to stay. It’s been my dream since I was 11 years old,” Butterfly said. “It was a big adjustment at first, but it’s getting easier. A lot more people around and a lot of help.”
Butterfly noted the influence of late jockey Eduardo Gutierrez-Sosa on his career. Gutierrez-Sosa, 29, was killed in a fall during a quarter horse race July 14 at Crooked River when his mount, Godfather Advice, struck the inside rail. Butterfly also rode in the race, finishing second.
“He was the one jockey in the room where you’d go in there and he was always smiling and always taking care of everyone before himself,” Butterfly said. “He’s just been a big inspiration for me. I talk to him before every race and I pray. He was always there and always helped me out. He helped everybody.”
Butterfly is the second teenager riding regularly in Maryland. Charlie Marquez, 18, leads all jockeys with 84 wins in Maryland this year and was the state’s top apprentice with 58 victories in 2020. He won his first meet title at the Preakness Meet at Pimlico stand that ended Aug. 22.
Notes: A 7-year-old West Virginia-bred gelding trained and co-owned by Bernard Dunham, Super Garner ($4.80) extended his win streak to nine races this year with a front-running 4 ½-length triumph in Friday’s Race 3, a 5 ½-furlong starter allowance for 3-year-olds and up. It was the 18th win from 43 lifetime starts, his first at Laurel. The winning time was 1:03.63 over a fast main track … Jockey Jevian Toledo tripled Friday with Glengar ($11.20) in Race 4, Miss Majorette ($4.80) in Race 8 and The Man to See ($7.80) in Race 9. The Man to See and Alpha Queue ($6) in Race 1 are both trained by Lacey Gaudet … Jockey Forest Boyce celebrated her 37th birthday with a win aboard Rock the Boat ($7.80) in Race 6 … There will be carryovers of $5,396.83 in the 20-cent Rainbow 6 (Races 5-10) and $834.97 in the $1 Super Hi-5 (Race 1) for Saturday’s 10-race card. First-race post time is 12:40 p.m.