Stable stalwart: Johnson Houghton head lad celebrates 50 years of service
Few working in racing can boast 50 years' service but that is the case for Eve Johnson Houghton's head lad William Reddy, who has worked at the same yard for five decades.
Reddy, who will be 65 next month, started working at the historic Woodway stables in Blewbury as a school leaver aged 14 and has been with the Johnson Houghton family ever since - starting as a groom for Eve’s father Fulke in 1969.
He was responsible for looking after multiple Group 1 winners, including Ile De Bourbon and Rose Bowl in the 1970s, and said: "I have some wonderful memories over the decades and I have enjoyed every moment working in the yard, but I'm not finished yet as I have no plans to retire next month even though I stopped riding out every day earlier this year.
"The yard is full of history as the likes of St Leger winners Ribocco and Ribero were trained here in the mid-to-late 1960s and I can remember seeing them on the gallops as I first rode out at the yard when I was ten years old and still at school. It’s all I’ve known for my entire working life.”
Back then multiple Group 1 winners were the order of the day at Woodway and, although times have changed over the past 50 years, Reddy is more than optimistic Accidental Agent’s success in the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot last year is the signal there is more to come.
He said: "Eve does a fantastic job with the owners and getting new faces into the yard which is really important these days. I hope Accidental Agent can be back among the Group 1 winners as the plan is to head to Goodwood next month for the Sussex Stakes."
Reddy attended a barbecue at the yard on Sunday to celebrate his half-century but explained it was just a short break from his daily routine.
"I was working this morning and I will be in the yard again this evening so life goes on – it’s non-stop at this time of year so it’s a good job that I like to keep myself busy," he added.
50 years ago today this legend started work at Woodway. He started off as apprentice, did some amazing horses, was travelling head lad & is now my right hand man. William Reddy thank you. #teamWoodway #loyalty pic.twitter.com/eW1W0pJlpD— Eve Johnson Houghton (@johnsonhoughton) July 21, 2019
Looking back over the last 50 years, Reddy considers there are a few ways in which the sport could improve and argues that weekend racing should be one of the things reshaped by those in charge.
He said: "The weekends are so lopsided with a host of high-profile meetings on a Saturday and then, apart from 1,000 Guineas weekend at Newmarket, it’s dire as there is nothing on a Sunday. That needs to be looked at for obvious reasons.
"Of course, the sport has to try and race when the majority of the public can go – it’s supply and demand – and that’s why everything is happening on Saturday afternoons and evenings.
"From a financial point of view it works really well for the racecourses as they can put bands on afterwards and are absolutely packed out with people, but is it working for the good of racing in the longer term? There has to be a doubt."
For the freshest betting advice, based on latest going and market conditions, don't miss the Live Tipster every afternoon. Just click Raceday Live at racingpost.com or the mobile app