The Legend – Joe Reed

There’s an old saying that life’s a crapshoot. In Joe Reed’s case, it was.

by Bruce Beckmann
Reprinted from the Quarter Horse Journal, 1992joereed

The crapshooters were having a whale of a time. It was pitch black outside the stable, but the kneeling gamblers could faintly see the dice from a single lantern. They were an assorted lot of Negro, Mexican and Angio grooms, exercise riders and jockeys, gathered in San Antonio for a race meet in the spring of 1919, Their drinking and gaming was occasionally interrupted by a stallion kicking the walls of his stall — right next door was a mare in heat. The two were squealing violently.

Go let that rowdy sonofagun in there,”‘ one of the shooters said, A groom got up, caught the stallion and turned him in with the mare. The game continued.

All the boys knew the stud. Joe Blair was a celebrated Thoroughbred by Bonnie Joe out of Miss Blair. With several wins under his girth, he earned his fame in a loss to the great mare Pan Zareta in a match race in Juarez, Mexico, during the winter of 1915; a year later, Joe Blair redeemed himself, setting the three-furlong world record of 39 flat at the same track.

The mare was a Cajun-bred runner called Delia Moore, owned by Texas rancher Henry Lindsey, who’d bought her in Louisiana. The Cajuns claimed she was by the great Bayou runner Dedier; Texans who drawled the stallion’s name pronounced it D.J Her dam was Bell by Sam Rock, another quick Cajun runner.  At the conclusion of the San Antonio meet, Lindsey took Delia Moore to Bartlett, Texas — a town near his ranch at Granger — and matched her against a horse named Dan Murphy, entirely unaware of the mare’s condition. By race day, trainer Will O’Neal was having problems cinching the mare. “I don’t know what ails her,” he explained to Lindsey. “It’s sure got me beat. I can’t draw her down. Jest lookit that belly,”  “Well, she sure won’t win nothing looking like that,” Lindsey said. The terms of the race with Dan Murphy were such that if it rained, the race would be called off, Fortunately, it showered that morning.

Months later, Delia foaled a chestnut colt, but due to O’Neal’s efforts to shrink her down for racing, she was in no shape to nurse. Lindsey named the illegitimate foal Joe Reed, started him on a bottle, and put Delia back into training. Later, Lindsey entrusted a neighbor with the feeding. Sometime later, Lindsey went to check on his unwanted colt, and found him nearly starved to death in a cockleburr field. Ashamed, he brought him up to a dry lot and began feeding him, When Joe Reed turned two, Lindsey loaded him in a railroad car with some racehorses and shipped him to the race meet at Omaha, Nebraska, where an exercise rider broke Joe Reed and began galloping him. “Time my colt, boys:’ Lindsey asked some bystanders one morning, “Which one?” someone asked, “The white-legged chestnut: Lindsey replied. “With a grandfather clock,’ ‘ one man  said, as the men died laughing.  As a joke, they obliged the Texan.

Joe took off, and when he flashed by the sixteenth pole, all stopwatches showed the same time: 5.4. A couple of the men were suspicious, and Lindsey reran the colt the next morning — Joe Reed shaved the time. One trainer asked Lindsey if he’d sell. “Oh, he’s just a quarter-running catch colt.”’ the Texan remarked, “He’s not registered, and he’s not for sale.”  The man pestered Lindsey for a price. “$2,500” was the answer. “I’ll takehim,” the man said.  Right about then, Lindsey turned queazy. He didn’t want to sell, but was trapped by his word. The man said he’d deliver the money the next morning, Lindsey decided, re Well, he didn’t say where he’d bring the money,” and left town during the night.

During the next few years, Lindsey ran the colt across the Midwest and in Oklahoma and Texas. Most of the races he found across the Great Plains were five-eighths of a mile or better — the runty colt couldn’t quite run that far. Under a quarter mile, he was chain blue lightning, clocking quarters in 22 flat, When the colt turned five, horseman J.W, House of Cameron, Texas, talked Lindsey into selling him Joe Reed, House had seen the horse race. “I never saw him start with a bunch of horses that he didn’t get right out and leave them on the jump,” House told. “Many a time, I have heard someone say, ‘He al- ways gets such a start in front,’ but he didn’t; he was so fast it only looked that way. He had so much power when he started he would-spread his plates. More than once, he nearly crippled himself in this manner and we finally had to shoe him with a bar across the heel.”

Apparently, several of House’s hired hands decided he might make a rope horse, “The boys wanted to rope calves on Joe,” House recollected. “I had told them they could not — he was too fast. When they came out after the calf he had passed the critter before they ever knew it. The boy said he had to hold on — didn’t see the calf” House never returned the stallion to prime racing shape, using him strictly for breeding. ‘Most of them didn’t have no breeding at all,” he said of his mares, “but every colt could ru and some of them pretty fast. I had two good mares, Little Red Nell and Nellene. I raised Red Joe Of Arizona out of Red Nell and Joe Reed II out of Nellene.”

House bred one good Thoroughbred mare named Fannie Ashwell to Joe Reed and got a mare he called Little Fanny — breeding her to her half-brother Joe Reed II resulted in a colt House named Leo.  In 1938, House sold the aging stallion to Dr. J.J. Slankard of Elk City, Oklahoma. While at Slankard’s, Bob Denhardt and Jim Minnick of the American Quarter Horse Association stopped by. It took Minnick only a glance to pass the horse on conformation. Although plain-headed, the stallion was flat-boned, had clean legs, strong quarters and a nice way of going. Denhardt chinned the stud at 15-2, and judged him to weigh roughly 1,050 pounds. The two men gave Joe Reed number three in the AQHA Stud Book. A few years later, on May 19, 1947, Joe Reed collapsed and died of a heart attack, He had just covered a mare.