07/27/2010 2:41PM

Gainesway owner Beck dies at 80

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Graham Beck, a South African winemaker and owner of Gainesway Farm in Kentucky and Highlands Stud in South Africa, died Monday night in London, Bloomberg reported. Beck was 80 and will be buried in Israel.

Beck purchased Gainesway from its founder, the late John Gaines, in 1989 and expanded its role as a stallion farm. The farm, which covers 1,500 acres and now also includes the old Whitney and Greentree Farms, currently is home to nine stallions. Those include Tapit, leading freshman and juvenile sire in 2008; Birdstone, sire of 2009 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird and Belmont winner and champion 3-year-old Summer Bird; and 2007 sprint champion Orientate, whom Gainesway bred.

Gainesway also bred Grade 1 winners Joyeux Danseur and Careless Jewel (the latter in partnership) and was part of the partnership that raced 1994 juvenile champion Timber Country.

Beck was born in Cape Town, South Africa, and became interested in horse racing while in college there. He initially bred and raced horses in South Africa, where he was still an active owner even after expanding his breeding program to the United States with the Gainesway purchase. He and his son Antony, Gainesway’s president, developed the farm into a leading consignor. Among its auction-ring highlights were the Keeneland September’s $3.1 million sale-topper Chimayo in 2008; $1.85 million Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale-topper Fairbanks in 2004; and $1.15 million Saratoga session-topper Ballad Rose in 2006.

In addition to his Thoroughbred farms, Beck also owned Graham Beck Wines, coal mines, and a yacht manufacturer in England.

Keeneland president Nick Nicholson called Beck “a great businessman, competitor, and horseman” and 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 a wonderful human being who fostered a great devotion and admiration among those who were associated with him.”

Beck is survived by his wife of 50 years, Rhona; his son Antony and daughter-in-law Angela Levy Beck; and five grandchildren.