Business

Graham Beck, owner of Gainesway Farm, dies at 80

Graham Beck, right, stood by as William T. Young surprised Beck's wife, Rhona, with a hug as Young arrived for the dedication of the Beck Center at Transylvania University in 2002.
Graham Beck, right, stood by as William T. Young surprised Beck's wife, Rhona, with a hug as Young arrived for the dedication of the Beck Center at Transylvania University in 2002. LEXINGTON HERALD-LEADER

Wine mogul and noted breeder Graham Beck, owner of historic Gainesway Farm, died in London on Monday night. He was 80.

According to various news outlets, Beck's body was being flown to Israel on Tuesday for burial.

Known internationally for his extensive line of wines as well as his successful mining ventures, Beck was also a leading figure in the Thoroughbred industry. The native of South Africa purchased Gainesway Farm from Breeders' Cup founder John Gaines in 1989, and he owned the top South African breeding operation Highlands Farm.

"Our industry mourns the loss of Graham Beck today. He was a great businessman, competitor and horseman," Keeneland president Nick Nicholson said in a statement. "He lived life to the fullest and was a joy to be around. He loved Gainesway Farm and was an incredible steward of the land. More importantly, though, he was wonderful human being who fostered great devotion and admiration among those who were associated with him.

"Our thoughts go out to his wife, Rhona, his son, Antony, and their family during this difficult time."

With Antony Beck at the helm as president of Gainesway, the 1,500-acre farm continued its tradition of breeding top runners and maintaining a notable stallion roster.

Among the standouts bred solely or in partnership during Graham Beck's reign are champion sprinter and current Gainesway stallion Orientate and Grade I winners Careless Jewel and Joyeux Danseur. The farm also campaigned champion and 1995 Preakness Stakes winner Timber Country in partnership.

In addition to standing such current top stallions as Mr. Greeley, Tapit and Birdstone — sire of classic winners Mine That Bird and Summer Bird last season — Gainesway managed the careers of leading sires Mt. Livermore, Cozzene and Broad Brush.

Gainesway stands nine stallions including Afleet Alex, Strategic Mission, Corinthian, Smoke Glacken and Whywhywhy.

"The Thoroughbred industry lost an immensely accomplished and respected figure today in Graham Beck, and the world lost a renowned businessman and philanthropist whose reach extended around the globe," Alex Waldrop, president of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, said in a statement on Tuesday. "Our deepest condolences go out to his son, Antony, and the entire Beck family."

Gainesway's prowess has also been notable in the auction area as the operation has consistently been a top-five yearling consignor by gross at major auctions.

At the 2008 Keeneland September yearling sale, Gainesway consigned the sale-topping daughter of A.P. Indy that sold for $3.1 million to bloodstock agent John Ferguson. The farm also consigned a colt out of champion Bird Town, a half-sister to Birdstone, that sold for a session-topping $1.3 million to Ferguson at the 2009 Fasig-Tipton Selected Yearling Sale in August.

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