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Uncle Heavy Hauls Reid Family To Preakness

Uncle Heavy  will be one of the longer shots among handicappers in the $2 million Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico Race Course May 18, but with an eye-catching name he is likely to draw attention from the casual racing fans.

Upon first glance at the Pennsylvania-bred son of Social Inclusion , his name makes sense. Standing about 17 hands tall and weighing around 1,250 pounds, Uncle Heavy is a towering presence on the track and at the barn. However, his name is actually a reference to trainer Butch Reid’s brother Mark, who bred the colt with his wife, Barbara. Barbara Reid is the formal breeder of record.

The Reids grew up in southern New Jersey, just across the Delaware River from Philadelphia. Both were wrestlers in high school and continued the sport through their days at the University of Maryland.

The brothers developed a passion for horse racing attending the races at Garden State Park with their grandfather. Once in Maryland, they began working with trainer Dick Dutrow at Laurel Park and Bowie Race Track. The grooms around the barn created a nickname for Mark based on his success as a heavyweight wrestler.

“They started calling him ‘Heavy,'” said Butch. “We picked it up. Then the nieces and nephews started calling him ‘Uncle Heavy.'”

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Mark Reid "Uncle Heavy" (Univ of Maryland Heavyweight wrestler), Butch Reid’s brother; Butch Reid is trainer of Uncle Heavy
Photo: Courtesy of Butch Reid

Mark ‘Uncle Heavy’ Reid during his wrestling days at the University of Maryland

After being bred by Mark and Barbara at their Walnut Green farm in Kennett Square, Pa., the colt was sold to Mark’s friend and client, Mike Milam. As the horse grew into his large frame, Milam decided he was the perfect horse to wear the name Uncle Heavy.

Something that was not heavy with the colt was initial expectations. Mark and Barbara had purchased the dam, Expect Wonderful , for about a thousand dollars. The colt failed to impress through his early breezes once joining Butch’s operation, but once the distances of his breezes started getting longer, Uncle Heavy started to show that he had talent.

“He’s just a big horse with a big stride. That’s the good building blocks for where you want to get started,” Butch said. “Once the distances started getting (longer) and we started getting ready to run him, he really stepped to the floor and blossomed.”

Uncle Heavy blossomed into a Pennsylvania-bred stakes winner at Parx Racing as a 2-year-old and successfully took his game on the road when beating open company in the Withers Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct Racetrack Feb. 3. After Uncle Heavy won the Withers Stakes at Aqueduct, Milam sold a piece of the colt to Glenn Bennett’s LC Racing.

Uncle Heavy wins the 2024 Withers Stakes at Aqueduct
Photo: Coglianese Photos/Chelsea Durand

Uncle Heavy wins the Withers Stakes at Aqueduct

“I had a lot of success in the game with (late Hall of Fame trainer) Bobby Frankel, so I’ve been around a lot of these good horses,” Mark said. “I just never thought one would fall our way.

“To have one that we bred, (by) a local stallion and a mare that nobody wanted, it’s quite a thrill. Then to sell him to a friend of mine and have him trained by my brother, it doesn’t get much better than that.”

One day after his victory in the Withers, luck turned against Uncle Heavy. A horse at Belmont Park tested positive for Equine herpesvirus and caused the barn to be quarantined. One of Uncle Heavy’s Withers competitors had potentially been exposed, causing Uncle Heavy to be quarantined and unable to return to Butch’s Parx base.

Waiting out his quarantine at a local farm, Uncle Heavy missed about three weeks of training and had to use a jogging machine to stay fit.

“They did a nice job with him, he came in without losing too much,” Butch said. “It did put us a little behind the eight ball; we had to play catch up getting to the Wood.”

Uncle Heavy’s luck only got worse at Aqueduct’s Wood Memorial (G2) April 6. Breaking from the far outside, Uncle Heavy was beginning to launch his rally in the stretch when a horse next to him, Deposition , clipped heels with another contender and fell. Deposition made contact with Uncle Heavy on the way down and, according to Butch, distracted both his colt and jockey Mychel Sanchez. Uncle Heavy would regroup to finish fifth, but the rough trip cost him a shot at qualifying for the Kentucky Derby (G1).

Trainer Butch Reid shares a lite moment with his wife Virginia at the training barn this morning Friday May 17, 2024 at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, MD.    Photo by Skip Dickstein
Photo: Skip Dickstein

Trainer Butch Reid with his wife Virginia

Six weeks removed from all the turmoil that cost him a spot in the Run for the Roses, Uncle Heavy has not missed a beat and comes into the Preakness ready to put forth his best.

“Maybe it was a blessing in disguise that we didn’t get into the Derby, we might not have been able to resist the temptation,” said Butch. (The Preakness) is not a 20-horse field; it’s an eight-horse field, which is a big difference for (Uncle Heavy’s closing style).”

It was 20 years ago that Smarty Jones  etched his name into Preakness lore as a Pennsylvania-bred winner, and now Uncle Heavy will have his chance to add his name to the list.

“I’ve been in the big time with some good trainers and owners in the past, but it’s different when it’s you,” Mark said. “It’s great fun, Butch has done a great job with him.”

“It would be fantastic, especially since we have close ties to Maryland,” Butch said. “The Preakness is always a race that stuck out to me. To finally get there will be something special.”

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