Obituary: Reginald Hollinshead, racehorse trainer

Reg Hollinshead. Picture: Getty
Reg Hollinshead. Picture: Getty
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Born: 3 January, 1924, in Upper Longdon, Staffordshire. Died: 6 May, 2013, in Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire, aged 89

IT WAS entirely typical of Reg Hollinshead’s mentoring of youngsters that after his death on Monday morning, his son Andrew decided to keep the stable’s three entrants in their races at Warwick racecourse that afternoon. “We were going to take them out, but there’s no doubt about it, he would have wanted them to run so we are running,” said Andrew, who has now taken up his father’s training licence after a long stint as assistant trainer at the family stables.

Reg Hollinshead would have preferred that the three horses finished better than fifth, fifth and last, and rest assured, had the Lodge Farm yard had a sniff of a possible result, the shrewd veteran trainer would have helped the connections to fleece the bookmakers. He did that on countless occasions in more than six decades in racing, and though he was never in the very highest rank of trainers, his sheer longevity and consistency earned Hollins­head more than 1,500 winners on the Flat and over jumps and also vast respect throughout British racing, while punters were always on the lookout for a possible Hollinshead coup.

He was noted above all for his “academy” for young jockeys attached to his stable, instilling discipline and professionalism into numerous apprentices, some of whom went on to enjoy stellar careers – former champion jockey Kevin Darley, Derby winners Walter Swinburn and Willie Ryan, Paul Eddery, Tony Ives, ­Fergal Lynch and the late Greville Starkey and Steve Perks.

Born at the family dairy farm at Upper Longdon, south of Rugely in Staffordshire, Hollinshead’s carefree youth came to an abrupt end in 1940 with the sudden death of his father. At the age of 16 he had to start work alongside his mother to maintain their herd of 100 cows. Though consequently excused active service during the war, Hollinshead insisted on joining his local Home Guard.

Combining farm management with learning the basics of jockeyship, Hollinshead was 25 before he rode a winner aboard a horse he bought and trained himself. Shivalee was a former Irish point-to-pointer who hacked up under Hollinshead in a novice hurdle at the now defunct Woore track on 12 May, 1949. Like so many in his career, the first Hollinshead winner was heavily wagered on, and started 2-1 favourite.

His career in the saddle over jumps developed alongside his training of Flat, National Hunt and dual purpose horses. Hollins­head would later win the Liverpool Hurdle with Afzal in 1984 and the following year’s Fighting Fifth Hurdle with Out of the Gloom, but arguably his biggest success over jumps came early in his career with Colonised, winner of the 1957 ­National Hunt Juvenile Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.

On the Flat, he had particular success with Remainder Man, an unfashionably bred colt who came second in the 1978 2,000 Guineas and third in that year’s Epsom Derby before winning the prestigious Ormonde Stakes the following year. Big handicap winners included Spanish Gold, winner of the Great St Wilfred in 1972, and Regal Steel, who won the Old Newton Cup in 1983.

In 1981, The Quiet Bidder won the Cork and Orrery Stakes at Royal Ascot, making Hollinshead one of very few trainers to have a winner at both the Royal meeting and the Cheltenham Festival.

As the decades went by, Hollins­head kept churning out the winners at a regular rate of 30 to 40 per year. His most prolific winner was Suluk, who passed the post in first place an astonishing 25 times in five seasons between 1989 and 1993. Hollinshead enjoyed his best season in 1995 when he sent out 65 winners.

He was also one of the first trainers to regularly campaign his horses on the all-weather surfaces, especially at nearby Wolverhampton, which opened its artificial track in 1993 and was also the first track in Britain to be floodlit.

In recent years, the stable had become less consistent but had enjoyed some successes, most notably with 2001 November Handicap winner Royal Cavalier, the reliable sprinting filly Goldeva which Hollinshead bred himself, and Tominator, winner of the 2011 Northumberland Plate, the Pitmen’s Derby.

Hollinshead used to enjoy his forays north of the Border as a younger man, but his runners in Scotland decreased in latter years, his last winner here being Viper, easy victor of a handicap hurdle at Musselburgh in December, 2008 – it went off the well-backed 11-4 favourite as the trainer bashed the bookies once again.

Perhaps his greatest accolade came the following year when he received the Sir Peter O’Sullevan award for lifelong service to racing.

If Hollinshead was to be described in a phrase, he himself would probably settle for a True Gentleman of the Turf. For he was indeed a personable character, and never one to shout about his achievements, not the least of which was to raise three children who have built careers in racing, Andrew succeeding him as trainer, Sarah as co-manager of the stable and Tim who runs a stud farm.