Jockeys were united yesterday in tributes to Reg Hollinshead, Britain’s oldest trainer who dies yesterday morning at the age of 89. Above all they stressed two things; that he was a superb tutor and that he was a true gentleman.
Hollinshead was a farmer’s boy, born in 1924 at Longdon, near Rugeley in Staffordshire. He lived there all his life, building up a jockeys’ academy that produced more than 50 success stories. Former champion jockeys Pat Eddery and Kevin Darley, and Derby winning riders Walter Swinburn and Willie Ryan all graduated from the Hollinshead school of riding at Lodge Farm, Upper Longdon.
He started life as a teenaged farmer after his father died, though racing gradually took over, with Reg riding first as an amateur and then as a professional before he graduated to training. His place in the history books was secured when he rode the winners of the last two races at Woore before its closure in 1963. By then, the Shropshire circuit already had a place in Hollinshead’s heart, as he his first winner as a trainer ran there.
Speaking about his father, Andrew Hollinshead said, “Dad was a legend, one of a kind. He had been in poor health. He had been in hospital for the last ten days so it wasn’t a total shock, but when it happens it’s still a shock.”
Andrew Hollinshead was at Warwick yesterday, and considered pulling their three horses out, but, he said, “there’s no doubt about it, he would have wanted them to run, so we are running.” The three all finished well beaten, but running was surely the right thing to do.
Kevin Darley, champion apprentice in 1978 and champion jockey in 2000, led the tributes, explaining how Hollinshead helped him decide that he really did want to be a jockey. He said, “I was there from the age of about 14 at weekends and then got the bug, and what better place to be? Reg was very old fashioned and rarely swore – if he swore you knew he was in a really bad mood. One of his biggest attributes was that he would let you work it out for yourself. He would let you know when you made a mistake but he wouldn’t go on about it. The bottom line was he taught us all respect.”
Respect played a big role for all the jockeys who came under his tutelage, and it applied to each other just as much as to the horses. It went along with hard work, smartness and proper manners, and jockeys who picked up those values had his full support when it became time for them to move on, as Walter Swinburn acknowledged. He said, “It’s a sad moment. I have many memories of him. I think for my first winner for him I had to go racing in the horsebox. He was very instrumental in me getting the job with Michael Stoute. We had a meeting halfway between Rugeley and Newmarket, and Reg conducted affairs. I owe him so much. Without him I would probably never have ridden Shergar.”
The tributes poured in throughout yesterday, with many recognising the dual role that formed the citation for his 2009 Sir Peter O’Sullevan Award, “for training winners for 60 years and for also being a remarkable trainer of jockeys.”