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Dancers Daughter   The outstanding British-bred mare Dancer's Daughter won three Group 1 races for Graham Beck during her career in South Africa   PICTURE: Goldcircle 

Graham Beck, owner of Gainesway, dies aged 80

GRAHAM BECK, owner of Gainesway Farm in Kentucky and a renowned South African winemaker, has died at the age of 80.

A prominent racehorse owner and breeder worldwide, Beck also owned Highlands Farm in South Africa in addition to Gainesway. Both farms will operate as usual in the Beck family ownership.

Beck purchased Gainesway Farm from John Gaines in 1989 when the farm was at the height of its powers as the home of Blushing Groom, Riverman and Vaguely Noble.

The acquisition included properties belonging to the Whitney family's Greentree Stud, and under Beck's guidance, Gainesway has since remained among the leaders of the Kentucky industry.

Today under the management of Beck's son Antony, the 1,500-acre farm stands nine stallions including leading sires Birdstone, Mr Greeley and Tapit. Another resident stallion, Breeders' Cup Sprint winner Orientate, is a Gainesway-homebred.

Gainesway also bred last season's Grade 1 Alabama Stakes winner Careless Jewel in partnership while Highlands Farm has bred recent South African Group 1 winners such as On Her Toes, Ravishing, Russian Sage, Successful Bidder and Warm White Night.

Beck also raced 1995 Preakness Stakes winner Timber Country in partnership with Robert and Beverley Lewis and William Young.

The son of a stockbroker, Beck developed a passion for horse racing during his days at college, and at the time of Gainesway's purchase, was already a successful owner and breeder in his native South Africa.

After making his fortune in the coal industry, Beck decided to indulge his interest in racing, in some cases by purchasing well-bred horses in the US to race in South Africa.

In that way, Beck's name became synonymous with several high-class South African stallions including recent stars such as Badger Land and National Assembly. Another leading South African sire, Jallad, was purchased by Beck from Sheikh Hamdan in 1992.

Jallad and National Assembly, who is best known in Europe as the sire of 2008 July Cup runner-up National Colour, are two ofsix stallions at Beck's Highlands Farm in the Western Cape.

The farm recently acquired the former Irish-based pair Antonius Pius and Spectrum through Tom Goff of Blandford Bloodstock, who also sourced Beck's outstanding runner Dancer's Daughter at the 2005 Tattersalls October Sale.

Goff paid tribute to Beck on Tuesday, saying: "Graham was a legend in South Africa. He was a pioneer of the industry in South Africa for 40 years and will be massively missed.

"He was a great character - he called a spade a spade - and he was a fantastic man to work for as he understood the industry like few I have known. You had a free rein if you were buying for him, which allowed you to rely on your own judgement and make good choices."

Beck was also responsible for establishing the winery Graham Beck Wines, which was launched in 1983 following the purchase of Madeba Farm, situated in the same Robertson valley as Highlands.

Over time, Graham Beck Wines came to encompass four farms and today is a world renowned winery.

Beck's body was flown yesterday to Israel for burial. He is survived by his wife of 50 years, Rhona, and son, Antony.

Keeneland chief executive Nick Nicholson said: "Our industry mourns the loss of Graham Beck today. He was a great businessman, competitor and horseman. 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.

"His generosity touched many and will be a significant part of his legacy. Our thoughts go out to his wife Rhona, his son Antony and their family during this difficult time."

 

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