Graham Beck, the South African winemaker and a leading international breeder who bought Gainesway Farm in Lexington in 1989, has died in London at age 80, according to Bloomberg News.
Bloomberg reported that at Beck's request, operations at the four farms he owns will continue as normal. Beck is survived by his wife, Rhona, and son Antony, who is president of Gainesway Farm.
Beck was also successful in the mining industry in South Africa in addition to building the wine empire that bears his name into an international success and operating a major stud farm before venturing into the American breeding industry.
Under the Beck family’s ownership and Antony Beck’s direction, Gainesway has built on the foundation established by the late John Gaines, who was an early adapter of the stallion station concept. In addition to the original Gainesway, the farm now totals more than 1,500 acres, including the former Greentree and Whitney farms.
“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," said Alex Waldrop, CEO and president of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association. "Our deepest condolences go out to his son Antony, and the entire Beck family.”
Among the numerous stakes winners bred by Gainesway individually or in partnership have been champion sprinter Orientate, grade I winners Joyeux Danseur, and Careless Jewel, group II winner Vengelis, and grade/group III winners Hidden Assets, Daiwa Bandit, Drilling for Oil, Silent Roar, Windrush, Redding Colliery, Mauk Four, and Touching Beauty.
While Gainesway is an active owner and breeder, the farm is perhaps best known for the success of its stallions.
The Gainesway Farm website notes with pride that Gainesway-bred Orientate returned home when he was added to the farm’s stallion roster in 2003.
"Among the many recent achievements that Antony (Beck) finds the most rewarding is the return of homebred champion Orientate as a stallion -the ultimate ‘home run’ to which all breeders aspire," the website states.
Another home run for Gainesway came when farm stallion Birdstone was represented by two champions from his first crop—Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner Mine That Bird, who was the 2008 Canadian champion 2-year-old male, and 2009 champion 3-year-old male Summer Bird, that year's Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner.
"He was a great businessman, competitor and horseman. He lived life to the fullest and was a joy to be around," said Keeneland president and CEO Nick Nicholson. "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."