Stories About Joe Reed II
by Jenny Wohlfarth
The chestnut colt, foaled in 1936 in Cameron, Texas’ was built for speed. His daddy, Joe Reed, was known to gee such a jump out of starting gates that he would nearly spread his racing plates in his launch, requiring a special bar across the heel; and his mama, Neliene, didn’t stop kicking dirt in her rivals’ faces until her sixth month of pregnancy. In a letter to Bert Wood shortly after Joe Reed 11’s birth, breeder J,W. House described him as a “big strapping colt: — smart as a whip, with just the disposition a breeder prays for,”Wood — who had held the lead rope of the colt’s record-breaking Thoroughbred granddaddy (Joe Blair) and later watched in awe as Joe Reed smoked up one track after another — wanted a colt from that bloodline bad. When Wood finally convinced House to sell Joe Reed II in October 1941, the stallion sported a knobby left knee, the result of a bad encounter he’d had with some barbed wire when he was young.
At five, Joe had still not been broke. Wood started him on cattle nonetheless, (Running him through the cactus and grease-wood, up cutbanks and down arroyos, working cattle day in and day out,” wrote Quarter Horse historian Nelson Nye in “Outstanding Modem Quarter Horse Sires” (1948) In one such back-country expedition, Joe stepped on a broken beer bottle, cutting his coronet band and sprouting a quarter crack that never did heal in all his years. Despite Joe’s injury, Wood was determined to see his horse race, and on February 7 1943, he did just that.
The gimpy colt loaded in the gate at the Hacienda Moltacqua track in Tucson, amidst the laughs of all the railbirds, and promptly beat the snot out of five other horses with far more race experience than him. Wood kept Joe in his stall the whole next week, nursing the troublesome foot, then raced him again the following Sunday.
He won again, this time outrunning an even faster field. Another week in the stall, and another race the next Sunday found Joe in the gate with the top running Quarter Horses of his day, including the 1940 world champion Clabber. They broke together, but Clabber swerved in and nearly, knocked Joe off the track. 01″ Joe dug his sore feet in the loose soil and hung in there like a heavyweight. “Joe ran this race practically on two legs,” wrote Nye, who attended the race himself and vehemently claimed Joe’s valor could be proved by close inspection of official track photographs. “He beat Clabber by half a head with blood spurting from his foot every step of the way. ” After those three races, Joe was named champion running stallion for 1943. He never raced again.
Joe’s recognition as a sire, though, is what earned him a place in the breed’s history, not his courageous, two-legged,” vaguely remembered victory at an Arizona racetrack. Joe sired roping and cutting horses and crop after crop of lightning-fast dirt-pounders, like his best-known son Leo. Wood remembered Joe as being a clownish horse that turned on water faucets to flood the barn and reared up on one hind leg for applause, so it’s not too surprising that the stallion also sired television star Mr. Ed.” Scores of backyard horsemen paid Joe’s modest stud fee, and it wasn’t top-dollar mares they were bringing him, either, “Until 1947 a man could count the top mares Joe had served on one hand,” wrote Nye, “yet that same man could pretty near breed him to a packing crate and get some kind of racehorse.” And that’s a pretty good reputation for just another Joe.
Reprinted from The Quarter Horse Journal, December 1996