04/27/2015 10:15AM

Former Tampa Bay trainer Reading dies at 99

Courtesy of Tampa Bay Downs
Former trainer John Reading died recently at age 99.

OLDSMAR, Fla. – The Tampa Bay Downs community lost one of its most respected members last week when former trainer John Reading died at age 99.

Reading’s answer to a possible midlife crisis was to retire from his position as an executive in the auto-parts industry and start a new career as a trainer in his 50s. He saddled his first horse in the mid-1960s and actively trained until 2010. He still owned runners up until 2014 and was a frequent visitor to the backstretch until recently.

He began racing at old Toledo Raceway and ran a string of horses at tracks in Ohio and the Midwest before coming to Tampa. He was the leading trainer at Tampa Bay Downs in 1991-92 and 1992-93 and served on the board of the local division of the Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association for a number of years.

Reading trained stakes winners Tri Bowl, Strike the Knight, and Furash Folly. Furash Folly ran second to Hall of Fame mare Lady’s Secret in the 1985 Regret Handicap. According to Daily Racing Form statistics, Reading won 711 races between 1976 and 2010.

He also had the rare distinction of having trained for two different owners of Tampa Bay Downs, as he conditioned horses for current owner Stella Thayer and the bombastic George Steinbrenner.

Reading was a throwback to the era when the horse always came first. He refused to run or push a horse who was developing a physical problem.

“John did more watching than talking, but he was a keen observer and could spot a horse with an issue often before the riders or exercise boys could,” his assistant for 30 years, Peg McVey, recalled. “And he refused to keep a horse with an issue in training just to get the day rate; he would tell his owners to take the horse to the farm and give them time instead. He was a man of great integrity in a business that could use more of that these days.”

Reading is survived by daughter Jacalyn, four grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

Funeral arrangements are pending. Reading will be interred next to his wife, Gwen, who died in 2007. They were married 64 years. Reeb Funeral Home of Sylvania, Ohio, is handling the arrangements.

◗ Jockey Jean Medina sustained a broken arm and a collapsed lung in a two-horse spill during Friday’s ninth race. Medina’s mount, Lapantalones, ran up on horses’ heels into the first turn of the one-mile turf race and went down, unseating his rider. A Cure At Last, with Scott Spieth aboard, fell over the fallen horse. Spieth sustained a minor ankle injury. Neither horse was seriously injured.