Famous Turfman of Old: Reminiscences of Late Charles Reed, Who Owned St. Blaise and Other Noted Horses, Daily Racing Form, 1922-12-09


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FAMOUS TURFMAN OF OLD Reminiscences of Late Charles Reed, Who Owned St. Blaise and Other Noted Horses. NEW ORLEANS, La.; December S. "There goes a man who makes me think of the late Charley Reed," remarked a veteran turfman. "And it also reminds me that, although the doings of Reeds life would make a big volume of interesting reading, the newspapers carried only some twenty lines about him when he died in poverty down at Gallatin, Tenn., a few years ago. He was past S5 years old when he died and had been one of the most prominent characters on the turf and in the sporting world for a full half century. "Never was there a character better known to the turf a quarter of a century and more ago than old Charley Reed. So venerable in appearance was he that no one seemed able to remember him as a young man. And yet with all his years he was still vigorous when he had passed his eightieth milestone. "Reed, though supposed by many to have been a Kentuckian by birth, was born in Tennessee on Friday, March 13, 1S30, and in his late years he often was heard to remark that there was no hoodoo in the Fri-day-the-thirteenth for him. Ive always been lucky, he once remarked to a reporter, although at the particular moment he made the remark all his belongings that had cost him hundreds of thousands were being sold at auction for a pittance. "From his boyhood days Reed was a gambler, and he gambled at cards in those days when gambling was the recognized receation of statesmen and financiers. And yet, after having gambled all his life, he was steered against a sure thing to lose his last ?5,000, and he died penniless. ONE OF THE "FORTY-NINERS." "At the first rumor of the strike in California the then young Charley Reed was one of the modern Jasons to join the Argonauts, and go in quest of the golden fleece. Prospering there he i-eturned eastward to New York and later went to New Orleans, where he ran a gambling house. At the time of General Benjamin Butlers raid on the Crescent City Reed was in jail as the result of an encounter in which another gambler was killed. General Butler opened the doors of the jail, freed all the prisoners, and Reed went away from there and again journeyed northward. "Always Charley Reed loved the horses and often told of seeing his first big race when a boy of eleven, when he was taken to see the great match between Fashion and Peytona on Long Island in 1841. Long after the Civil War Reed purchased Fairview Farm, near Gallatin, Tenn., the place of his birth. He succeeded John Morrissey in the ownership of the noted clubhouse at Saratoga, which afterward became the property of Richard Canfield, and which now is owned by the City of Saratoga, the buildings and grounds being a part of the city park system. "The one story that always cropped up when anything was to be said of Reed was his sensational bid on the famous Epsom Derby winner St. Blaise. "St. Blaise was imported into this country by the first August Belmont, father of the present chairman of the Jockey Club. After the death of Mr. Belmont St. Blaise was put up at auction in Madison Square Garden, along with others of the Belmont racing string. When the great thoroughbred was offered there was but one bid. Every one else was breathless when Reed said 00,000, and he secured the horse, which became the head of the stud at Fairview. "Tall and big of frame, with grizzled hair and mustache. Reed was a picturesque character of the turf, never to be forgotten by any one who had once seen him. No other turfman of his time ever dressed as did Charley Reed. His taste ran to hats with fantastic bands made of multicolored scarves and bandana handkerchiefs. Always he wore a fancy vest of some heavy goods in bright colors, checked or striped, and on his feet he wore spats, whether in winter or in summer. REEDS EXTENSIVE HOLDINGS. "In addition to his clubhouse interests at Saratoga Reed owned the house at 5 West Twenty-fourth street adjoining the old Hoffman House, and along in the 70s, SOs and even into the 90s this was a place where the play at cards and roulette was as high as any place in the world. There in those days famous men gambled for high stakes. One of the legends of the place was that Fernando Wood, once Mayor of New York, one night gambled away a newspaper prop- Continnetl on second pase. FAMOUS TURFMAN OF OLD Continued from first pasc. erty and then won it back and 0,000 besides the following night. "One of the last Broadway memories of Reed is the sale of the valuable furniture and works of art which took place in 1910. Furnishings that had cost 00,000 went for a total of ,500. In the lot was one sideboard that President Scott of the Erie Railroad had offered Reed 0,000 for. When the offer was made Reed turned it down, saying it would spoil the set to part with it. At the sale it was bought in by a dealer in antiques for 40. "Already Fairview had been sold with all its model stables and 1,957 acres of fine land that lay along the Cumberland River. Fairview was the most beautiful of all the old residences in the Blue Grass section of Tennessee and had been the home of the Franklins. "In those latter days it soured Reed to be known as a gambler rather than a horseman. He preferred to be remembered as the man who had owned St. Blaise and Thora, the greatest two-year-old of her year, and Bonnie Belle, another great race mare than brought fame to her owner. " I remember the time, he said during the sale of his house furnishings, when this place was frequented by men famous all over the United States. They came here for recreation ; but times havec hanged and gamblers of today are different. People have come to think differently of playing car.ds for money, and the old days have passed forever. HOXEST IX ALL HIS DEALIXGS. "Always Reed had borne the reputation of being honest in all his dealings on and off the turf, in his gambling houses, or in any other business transaction. After the sale of his last belongings the old man had sufficient to keep him for his declining days, but with his advancing years his mind weakened. The wire men played for him and he trusted them, for he always had been a trustful soul, believing no great ill of anyone. "The fake poolroom was all framed and the aged one was led to the slaughter. The man who had made one bid of 00,000 for a race horse and who had gambled for tens and hundreds of thousands in a night was there to place the remnant of a once big fortune on a sure thing. "The wire mob let him "place the money and the sure tiling was second. After it was all over, weakened in mind as he was, Reed knew that he had been bunkoed, but like the majority of those who have fallen and continue to fall for the old game he never squealed. The transaction was known to but a few people. "Charley Reed just dropped out of sight, and, like so many others at one time famous, he was forgotten. He got back down to Gallatin, whence he had started, and he died a pauper and among strangers, for most of those who knew him there had -passed on before."

Persistent Link: https://drf.uky.edu/catalog/1920s/drf1922120901/drf1922120901_1_4
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Library of Congress Record: https://lccn.loc.gov/unk82075800