After 46 years, trainer Mark Reid retires

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March 1976. Inflation, gas shortages and trouble in the Middle East were in the headlines of the Philadelphia Inquirer. On the sports page in the agate type, a young Mark Reid was listed as the trainer of a horse named Eight Count at the old Garden State racetrack. It was the first horse he ever entered as a trainer.

Six days later, he sent out Noblejest to win at Garden State – the first of 1,821 career victories.

Fast forward 46 years. Though many of the headlines are the same in the online version of the Inquirer, Thoroughbred coverage is a rarity in mainstream media today. So when Reid sent out Shewearsthepants to a seventh-place finish in a maiden race at Philadelphia Park Parx Racing March 28, it made nary a splash.

Yet it was the 11,385th runner of his career, and as it turns out, it’ll be the last. A couple days after that race, Reid announced that he was retiring as a trainer.

“[F]rankly, I am shocked [that his career lasted so long],” Reid said in an interview. “One reason I lasted so long was I loved it, especially the relationships with the people I got to deal with on the ownership side. On the negative side, training is a 24/7 job that so dominates your life. I like to say I raised a family, but actually my wife raised our family.”

His foundation in training was solid. A University of Maryland grad, he first spent his formative racing years under the tutelage of Richard “Dick” Dutrow, one of Maryland’s fabled “Big Four” trainers of the 1960s and 1970s. That group also included John Tammaro and Hall of Famers King Leatherbury and Bud Delp.

“Dicky Dutrow was one of the smartest horse guys I ever saw,” Reid said. “He had a program that he never swayed from. He hired the best and was a perfectionist. I learned that it is important to be organized so you don’t miss anything.”

Like Dutrow, Reid built his stable up to be a high-volume operation. In his 1992 high water mark, he sent out over 1,100 starters that earned over $2.6 million in purses.

“My greatest skill as a trainer was the ability to spot talent, and for that I relied more on physical appearance than bloodlines, especially since I often trained for owners with limited capital,” Reid said.

That ability to spot talent served Reid in more than just his tenure as a trainer. His career as a trainer bookends a large stretch of time in which he served as a bloodstock agent.

“I feel that sort of highlighted my career even moreso than training,” Reid noted.

Operating through his Walnut Green operation, Reid had a hand in many top horses. Two of his biggest finds were Medaglia d’Oro and Peace Rules for the late Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel. Each earned over $3 million while winning multiple Grade 1 events.

“Bobby did not care so much for pedigree as he did for athleticism. If I found him good horses, he could train them to run fast,” Reid remembered.

Reid points to Mr. Nickerson as both the best horse he ever trained – and his favorite. The hard-knocking sprinter sometimes gets forgotten even though he won four graded stakes and competed in two Breeders’ Cup Sprints. In the 1990 Sprint, he collapsed and died of a ruptured artery. Two races later on that same Breeders’ Cup card, Go For Wand fractured her cannon bone and had to be euthanized, and Mr. Nickerson was relegated as a secondary story in the race coverage of that day.

After an approximate fourteen-year gap in training Reid returned to the daily grind in 2014 albeit with fewer horses. The best year of his second stint was 2019, when his runners won 34 races and earned over $1 million.

Mark Reid, late Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel, former Governor of Pennsylvania Ed Rendell, renowned equine surgeon Dr. Dean Richardson.

Among the better horses he trained in the Reid 2.0 era were Please Flatter Me and Exculpatory. The former was a multiple stakes winner of nearly $275,000 and ran second in track record time in the 2019 Grade 3 Miss Preakness behind eventual champion Covfefe. The latter, just back in training, won four of seven 2021 starts, including a score in the Robert Hilton Memorial Stakes at Charles Town for owner Grace Merryman.

Reid will turn 72 in December and said he “just felt this was the right time to hand over the stock with the two-year old horses getting ready to run.” Although he will still help friends at sales and give breeding advice, he is looking forward to some time with his grandchildren and “to decompress.”

His two overall concerns for the sport are the need to clean up the public perception of racing and to speed up the game to attract bettors who are looking for faster paced action.

Although Reid is slowing down his own pace, he’s not going anywhere. “I still will keep my hand in the game, because I love it,” he said.

Exculpatory and Please Flatter Me photos