Reuben insists on conformation photos and occasionally on film footage showing a horse's action in galloping to determine whether or not the action would be suitable to American tracks. For additional advice on conformation Reuben relies heavily on his wife, once one of America's premier equestriennes. Winner of many honors in the show ring and at hunt meets, Billie Reuben has as sure an eye for fine points or faults in a horse as anyone in racing.
The first foreign-bred the Reubens bought is the best grass horse they've ever owned. Stan, bred in England, was purchased for a sum "in excess of $30,000" as a 3-year-old in 1953 from the international dealer W. C. Reid.
"It was getting difficult to obtain horses of some established form in this country at a fair price," Reuben recalls. "So when I was advised of this opportunity, I flew from Miami, where we were racing, to a farm near Newark, N.J., where Stan and other horses from England were in quarantine. I bought him shortly after."
Stan went on to earn $230,850 in the Reubens' blue-and-silver silks, was voted the best grass horse of 1954 when he swept the Arlington, Meadowland and Grassland handicaps, plus other major stakes.
Encouraged by Stan's success, the Reubens proceeded to gather such good ones as the English-bred, French-blooded Mahan, who beat Swaps in the 1956 Arch Ward Memorial and won the 1957 running of the Washington, D.C. International ("Our greatest single thrill in racing"); the Irish-breds Summer Solstice and Stephanotis, both of whom triumphed in Hialeah's coveted Bougainvillea Turf Handicap; the Irish-bred Jack Ketch, winner of the rich Canadian Championship last fall; the Argentine-bred speedster Mister Black; and others from France, England, Ireland, Chile, Australia and Argentina.
It should be noted, however, that the Reubens have also raced some fine American-bred horses. When they came into racing, shortly after the end of World War II, they had moderate luck with yearlings from the sales rings at Keeneland and Saratoga. "Then," Reuben recounts, "we decided to buy 'made' horses on my handicapping; horses we thought we could improve. In 1949 we purchased Seaward and Inseparable from Brookmeade, and they won over $450,000, most of this in our colors."
Other crack horses owned by the Reubens include the Preakness and Widener winner, Hasty Road ("our best horse"), who earned $541,402; Oil Capitol, a winner of $580,756 (owned in partnership with Trainer Trotsek); Sea O' Erin ($407,309); Queen Hopeful ($365,044); Ruhe ($294,490); Platan ($245,405); and additional clever stakes winners like Alspal, Pomace and Hasty Doll.
Trotsek is the only trainer the Reubens have ever employed. "We were showing and hunting horses in the Detroit area when we decided to come into racing," said Reuben. "We checked into the background of trainers stabled at the Detroit track and found that Harry's care of a horse came closest to the methods we used for our own stock. He had a public stable at the time, and we became one of his several patrons. A few years later, when we expanded our activities, he gave up the horses he had for others (except a few of his own) and has trained solely for us ever since."
Trotsek is considered a master at getting the most out of his horses in the afternoon with a minimum of effort on their part in the morning. He is also recognized as an outstanding developer of jockeys and is responsible for bringing out such boys as Ken Church, Lois and William Cook and Johnny Sellers.
Trotsek is a serious student of his profession, is as expert a teacher of horses as he is of men. "I'd say that patience is the primary quality a trainer must have," Harry advises, "particularly in dealing with foreign-bred horses. Remember that in Europe and other parts of the world horses are trained in seclusion at a private 'yard' and are only brought to the track for a race. Trainers abroad can take time with their stock, while we in this country must rush through our work each morning because the track closes for harrowing at 10 a.m. In addition, radios blare and automobile horns honk in our stable areas, noises foreign horses are not accustomed to in their private yards. You must have patience until they have had time to become familiar with our way of life.