Trainer Butch Reid looking to build on “a heck of a year”

For trainer Butch Reid, 2024 has begun pretty much as 2023 ended: in the winner’s circle and watching his purse earnings go up.

At the end of last year, Reid’s stable had set personal milestones in a number of categories, including total annual wins (57), total annual purse earnings ($4,020,868) and annual win percentage (26%). He improved his earnings by nearly 17% over the prior year, and he won two graded stakes races, including Dr B’s repeat win in the Go for Wand Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct Racetrack. He also won a remarkable 18 stakes on the season.

And on February 3, Reid was back in the winner’s circle at Aqueduct, this time with Uncle Heavy for the Withers Stakes (G3), a race Reid also won back in 2010 with Afleet Again. 

“We had a heck of a year,” said Reid, reflecting on 2023 in a conversation last month. “It’s a total group effort: hotwalkers, exercise riders, grooms, assistants, owners.” 

Based at Parx, Reid maintained a full stable of more than 40 horses for most of ’23. Generally, he said, by the end of the year, his stable dwindles, with horses retiring or moving to other barns through claims.

“But last year, that didn’t happen,” he said. “We had such good-quality horses that everybody stayed around because they were competitive in top-quality races.”  

Among Reid’s standouts were Grade 3 Delaware Oaks winner Foggy Night and fellow graded winner Dr B. He also has hard-hitting veterans like Ridin with Biden, who placed in two stakes races and earned $157,3000, and Beren, who raced nine times, placed third in the General George Stakes (G3), and earned $180,000.

In Morning Matcha, Reid has a candidate to be his first millionaire since Vequist, the 2020 champion two-year-old filly that won that year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies and retired the following year after being injured, having earned $1.2 million. 

While Vequist was regally bred in Kentucky and is by the 2016 Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist, Morning Matcha boasts a more modest, albeit lucrative, pedigree. Bred in Pennsylvania by Crane Thoroughbred Services, she is by New York stallion Central Banker, making her eligible for rewards in both the Keystone and Empire States racing programs.


And while Reid and owners LC Racing, Cash is King, and Gary Barber have made good use of those programs, they haven’t hesitated to stretch beyond them as well:  she was second in the Cotillion Stakes (G1) at Parx and third in the Grade 2 Delaware Handicap and the Comely Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct. Though she’s yet to break through as a graded stakes winner, she’s earned just shy of $900,000 and will be back on the track this year. An $18,000 purchase, she headed south to Barry Eisaman’s farm in central Florida after finishing 2023 with a win in the New York Stallion Series Stakes at Aqueduct. Reid expects her 2024 campaign to begin at Parx in the Unique Bella Stakes, a race she won last April. 

2024 might bring two other Reid runners to the $1 million in earnings: both Beren ($897,970) and Smooth B ($818,627) have the chance to hit seven figures this year.

And as Pennsylvania-bred Uncle Heavy’s earnings are close to $300,000 in four starts, the earnings of a talented three-year-old could well contribute to another record year for Reid.

“We want to keep upgrading,” he said. “We continue to set goals. Our previous record for winners was 54 [in 2011], and we got that beat. At this point, hoping to have a $5 million year feels legitimate.” 


[Story continues below gallery]
  • Uncle Heavy (#8) was just in time to win the Withers. Photo by Susie Raisher/NYRA.
  • Uncle Heavy #9 ridden by Mychel Sanchez wins the $200,000 Wait For It Stakes on December 27, 2023 at Parx Racing in Bensalem, PA. The two-year-old son of Social Inclusion is trained by Robert Reid, Jr., for Milam Racing Stables. Photo by Nikki Sherman/EQUI-PHOTO.
  • Uncle Heavy, winner of the $200,000 Wait For It Stakes on December 27, 2023 at Parx Racing, is named after Mark Reid, brother of the colt's trainer Robert "Butch" Reid, Jr. Photo by Bill Denver/EQUI-PHOTO.
  • Three trainers were inducted into the Parx Racing Hall of Fame at Parx Racing in Bensalem, PA on October 12, 2021. On far left is Robert "Butch" Reid, Jr., trainer of Breeders' Cup winners Afleet Again and Vequist. In the middle is Patricia Farro, who has over 1,900 victories. And on the far left is Jim Malone, who accepted the award on behalf of Eugene Euster. Malone was the longtime assistant trainer for Euster, who trained My Juliet. Photo by Bill Denver/EQUI-PHOTO.

The Withers winner is named for Reid’s brother Mark, himself a retired trainer. Mark acquired the nickname “Heavy” in the 1970s, when he was working for Dick Dutrow. His nieces and nephews picked it up, calling him “Uncle Heavy,” and a nickname and a namesake was born. Uncle Heavy was bred by Mark’s wife Barabara. 

The bay colt is likely to make his next start on April 6, in the Wood Memorial (G2) at Aqueduct, a track over which Reid has had more than little success. In early December, his Dr B won the Go for Wand on Saturday, and Morning Matcha won the Stallion Series Stakes a day later. 

“That was a real nice weekend,” he said. “Winning any race in New York is great, and it was good for the owners.” 

On February 17 Reid will try to win one in Maryland. He’s scheduled to send out Disco Ebo in the Grade 3 Barbara Fritchie Stakes at Laurel Park. The Pennsylvania-bred Weigelia mare has won 10 of 20 starts and will be hunting her first graded win. Frankie Pennington will ride.

Following an outbreak of equine herpesvirus at Belmont the day after the Withers, Parx prohibited any horses shipping from Belmont to re-enter the grounds. The unfortunate timing put a stop to Uncle Heavy’s active training, and the colt is working on the farm working on a jogging machine.

“We were thinking that we’d get another race into him before the Wood, but now that decision’s been made,” said Reid. “We want to keep him at two turns, so we’ll train up to the Wood.” 

The colt’s late-running style is nerve-wracking, and even Reid didn’t think the horse would get there when the field hit the sixteenth pole. But his last half a dozen strides were “monstrous,” said the trainer, and he praised jockey Mychel Sanchez for keeping Uncle Heavy on the outside and clear of kickback up the backstretch of the muddy/sealed track.

“The way he ran down the leader was really something,” said Reid. “He’s a big boy, but he’s got a laid-back attitude about him that I really like.”

Parx Racing Hall of Fame

Mark Reid file

First win: 1985
First graded stakes win: Groscar, 1990 Grade 3 Lamplighter H. (MTH)
First Grade 1 win: Poseidon’s Warrior, 2012 Vanderbilt H. (SAR)
Career record: 959 wins from 5,629 starts, $37.1 million earnings
Upcoming stakes starts: Disco Ebo, Feb. 17 Grade 3 Barbara Fritchie S. (LRL)
Notable: Inducted into Parx Racing Hall of Fame 2021… Brother of former trainer Mark Reid