This year has been a bad one for losing stalwarts of the turf, and racing has lost another high-achiever with the passing of one of Britain’s great owner-breeders, Guy Reed, at the age of 91.
For the past 45 years, Reed’s yellow, black and pink colours have been a familiar and popular sight in winner’s enclosures around the north – arguably most notably at his beloved York, into whose winner’s circle his homebred filly La Cucaracha strode after the Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes in August 2005, 30 years after another homebred star, Dakota, had landed a famous local triumph at the same meeting by taking the Ebor. More recently, Tiddliwinks registered another notable victory on the Knavesmire for this great Yorkshireman by taking last year’s Duke Of York Stakes.
The son of a Yorkshire farmer, Reed served in the RAF during and after the war. Once demobilised, he took to breeding chickens, becoming an agricultural tycoon thanks to his firms Buxted Chickens, Buxted Turkeys and Nitrovit Foodstuffs. He subsequently made a second fortune through his transport firm Reed Boardall Cold Storage.
When Reed began to own horses in the late 2960s, he chose Middleham-based Sam Hall as his trainer. He could not have chosen more wisely. Acting on Hall’s advice, he bought a foundation mare for his newly-acquired Nidd Hall Stud near Harrogate – and she proved to be a marvel. Purchased at Tattersalls’ December Sale in foal to Sovereign Path, Ardneasken duly foaled a colt, whom Reed named Warpath.
Hall trained Warpath to win several races, including the Extel Handicap at Glorious Goodwood (then one of the top prizes for three-year-olds) and the Doonside Cup at Ayr’s Western Meeting before the horse retired to Nidd Hall to start a stud career in which he sired many of the hundreds of winners who bore Reed’s colours.
Ardneasken subsequently bred Dakota, whose triumphs in addition to his Ebor victory included the King George V Handicap at Royal Ascot and the St Simon Stakes at Newbury; and she also bred several daughters, whose descendants continued to the present day to breed winners for Reed.
These included her grandson Apache, one of the first good horses trained for him by Chris Thornton, Hall’s protege who had succeeded his mentor at Spigot Lodge (by then owned by Reed) in Middleham in 1977.
The best horse whom Thornton trained for Reed, though, was the Warpath colt Shotgun, who was ridden by Lester Piggott to finish fourth to Shergar in the 1981 Derby, having won the Heathorns Stakes at Newmarket in the spring before finishing second in the Dante Stakes.
Other very good homebreds trained for Reed by Thornton included Path of Peace and Flossy, each a winner of the November Handicap at Doncaster (in 1980 and ’99 respectively). Path Of Peace proved very versatile as well as very good, as he proved by winning the County Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
In later years, Reed sold both Spigot Lodge and Nidd Hall Stud, instead consolidating his broodmare band at nearby Copgrove Hall. He continued to breed and own good horses right up to his death, with his good friend Barry Hills providing him with many notable victories this century, headed by La Cucaracha’s Nunthorpe but also including the 2003 Lincoln Handicap win at Doncaster of Pablo, a grandson of Apache’s half-sister Siouan. Kevin Ryan (trainer of Tiddliwinks) and Alan Swinbank also enjoyed notable success with his horses.
Reed also sent some horses to France to join Andre Fabre’s stable, thus enjoying a Group 2 success last year at Deauville with Pablo’s half-sister La Pomme D’Amour (who is still running very well, as she showed three days after her owner/breeder’s death by finishing second at Longchamp in the Group 2 Prix Maurice de Nieuil).
Guy Reed was indeed hugely successful in the racing world, just as he had been in the world of commerce. However, he was much more than a very successful man: he was a true sportsman, a larger-than-life character whose integrity matched his popularity and who enriched the turf by his patronage. Racing will be the poorer for his absence, and he will be sorely missed – but never forgotten.