In Memory of Donny Reeder
Donald S. Reeder passed away on July 31, 2022 at his home at the age of 81.
Born in Beaver Falls, PA, Mr. Reeder has been a long-time resident of Lower Bucks County.
He was a trainer for many years at Philadelphia Parx Racing. Mr. Reeder was a member of PTHA and loved horses and his country music.
Mr. Reeder is survived by his wife, Jeanie; his children, Dawn Figley, Justin Reeder and Cassie Rhone; many grandchildren; and his brother, Skip Reeder.
Some time into their relationship, Regina Brennan relayed that she thought Donnie Reeder was from Oklahoma. He explained that he was actually from Beaver Falls, Pa. and said “that only crooks and thieves come from Oklahoma.’’
“Yeah,’’ Brennan replied, “and so does my mother.’’
Such was their wonderful time together that lasted several decades. After Reeder, 81, passed away on the last day of July, Brennan remembered a horse trainer who loved the game and the people in it.
Parx Hall of Fame trainer John Servis, then a jockey’s agent, first met Reeder in 1979 at Penn National when he shipped a horse in from Waterford Park. He’d heard he was a terrific horseman.
“I made it a point to introduce myself to him,’’ Servis said. “We hit it off and we’ve been friends ever since.’’
Brennan wonderfully described Reeder as “good time Charlie, he lived the dream with no money in his pocket.’’
Servis concurred that Reeder loved to have a good time.
“He worked hard, taught me a lot watching what he did,’’ Servis said. “He was great working on horse’s legs. And he got results with horses he was holding together.’’
Parx HOF trainers Scott Lake and Phil Aristone were regulars by the rail with Reeder. Brennan, a trainer at Parx with such good horses as Promised Storm and Rock On Luke, said: “I’d be doing all the work. They’d just be up there laughing.
“`Did you see that horse work,’ she would ask. `Ah, I missed it,’’’ Reeder would say.
Lake called Reeder: “the classic definition of a race tracker, have fun, good guy.’’
Reeder had some solid horses in a career that spanned four decades and included 978 winners.
“He didn’t have the good horses either, he had the ones you had to work on,’’ Brennan said.
Heart’s Cry and Stephan’s Prize raced a combined 152 times, the vast majority of them with Reeder. They combined to win nearly $500,000 with Reeder, a few years before the slot-infused purses came to Parx.
Reeder’s best horse was the wonderful sprinter True Passion, winner of the 2002 Grade III Philadelphia Park Breeders’ Cup Handicap, the end of a six-race winning streak. True Passion, owned by Eliott Krems, was later named PhillyPark Horse of the Year for 2002.
True Passion, like many of Reeder’s top horses including Tizagal, raced in Southern California with limited success until they came east and Reeder got them to the winner’s circle over and over again. Tizagal won seven races from September 2001 until May 2002.
Brennan remembers putting $9,000 on her credit card for Tizagal before she saw her past performances and noted that “she had been beaten for $6.500 at some fair.’’ Then, she won all those races for them and was claimed for $50,000.
“Well, I guess you’re off the hook,’’ she told Reeder.
Even as he had a few horses of his own to train, Reeder was an assistant to Parx Hall of Fame trainer Dennis “Goose’’ Heimer. When Heimer died in 1989, Reeder got some of his owners and horses. His best years were 1999 with 85 winners and 2004 with 80.
Reeder served as PTHA president from 2009-2011. His preference was to remain in the background, but when needed, he was there.
“He was all about race trackers,’’ Brennan said. “Whatever they needed, he would try to get it done.’’
Reeder retired from training in 2012. According to Brennan, after being diagnosed with colon cancer in 2001, Reeder had been cancer free until the past couple of months when the cancer returned. He was in hospice when he died.
“I knew Don before we ever started dating,’’ Brennan said. “Just from being race trackers.’’
Reeder, she said, “just had that charisma. He always had something funny to say.’’
And he had stories, especially about riding in rodeos before becoming a trainer.
“His father got him a pony as a little kid,’’ Brennan said. “They’d go to the fairs…Every time something came on TV and I’d say `I’d like to go there,’ he’d say, `yeah I rodeoed there, I’ve been there, done that.’’’
True at the rodeos, true at the race track; Donnie Reeder has been there, done that.
Family and friends are invited to call on Thursday, August 18, 2022, from 5:00 until 7:00 pm at the James J. Dougherty Funeral Home, Inc., 2200 Trenton Road, Levittown, where his funeral service will be held at 5:00 pm. Interment will be held privately.
Donald Reeder worked under Marion Van Berg, beginning his career on the racetrack in 1962. Moving to the then Keystone Racetrack in 1979, Reeder had been a PTHA board member for 12 years and served as President. Having raised his family in southeastern Pennsylvania, Reeder saw Philadelphia Park progress to a track with the best live racing agreement due to the hard work of its horsemen’s group in protecting the future of its members.
Reeder’s main focus during his time on the PTHA Board was to continue to help the breeding and racing industry thrive in the Commonwealth, two goals that were accomplished under his Presidency. Their close work with legislators in Harrisburg assured the racing industry a share of the slot machine revenue, which enhanced both the PA breeder award program and purses.
Reeder supported two of the industry-leading programs that were started during his term: protection of our horsemen through health care and the new pension plan, and the establishment of Turning For Home, the PTHA’s racehorse retirement program, initiated in 2008, and which has become a model for other tracks. The one-of-a-kind program has helped over 3,600 horses from Parx (formerly Philadelphia Park) move on to new careers or safe retirement.
Donny trained his last horse in 2012, after a Graded-Stakes-winning career that resulted in 978 wins from 6,514 starts and $12,186,017.00 in earnings. With True Passion, he won the G3 Philadelphia Park Breeder’s Cup. Maneuverable, trained by Donny, was the first official TFH horse, and he lived out a long life, mostly retired, in a veterinarian’s field in MD, until oddly, he was found struck by lightning in a field in 2012, right around the time Donny stopped training. Donny’s charismatic personality drew the animals to him. He competitively trained horses for trick riding and rode rodeo like the true cowboy he was.
His many friends and family at the racetracks and rodeos will miss him always and remember him fondly.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions in his name may be made to Shriners Hospital for Children, 3551 North Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA 19140 or to Turning for Home, Inc., PO Box 300, Bensalem, PA 19020.