Reade Baker grew up with his two sisters in a house one mile up the road from the family’s small dairy farm in Port Dalhousie near St. Catharines. His was a close knit family of modest means with caring parents and a number of aunts and uncles, one of which influenced the direction of Reade’s future. Uncle Charles was a significant figure in Reade’s life as he was the one who took him to the races for the first time in 1961. Reade rode the horses on the farm but he was awe struck when he saw the beautiful thoroughbreds and the well-dressed patrons at the Fort Erie summer meet. Within ten minutes of entering the gates, the young fourteen year old decided that this was paradise and it is where he wanted to be.
After his visit to the racetrack, staying in school became difficult and Reade began a habit of skipping out at lunch and hitching a ride to the racetrack until his parents caught on and sent him to a boarding school in Kitchener so he could focus on his studies.
Coincidentally the first person Reade sat beside in his new school was John Chris, the son of a horse trainer. John went onto become a veterinarian, and worked for Reade’s stable at Woodbine.
In 1965 at age eighteen, Reade drove to Fort Erie on opening day of the summer meet and got a job as a swing groom for Pete (Gord) McCann, trainer for Windfields Farm.
The first thoroughbred he touched was Canebora, the Triple Crown winner in 1963. The big black stallion had returned to racing after failing to successfully settle a mare when retired to stud duty. Looking back now, Reade says he should never have been in the stall with the stallion.
Working for $97.00 clear twice a month, he would begin at 5 am and work until the last race of the day. He loved it until after one year he realized that comparatively he wasn’t getting paid very much and took a grooming job with Conn Smythe’s stable where he “hit the big time” making $65.00 a week. He was thrilled to be grooming there and says that it was the best stable he had seen in Canada. “He wouldn’t tolerate poor quality help or horses and everything was spotless”, says Reade.
The ambitious Reade left the Smythe barn because he was required to pony horses in the afternoon but wanted to work in the mutuels at Woodbine for extra money. So Reade took a job galloping horses for trainer Gil Rowntree and owner Jack Stafford. Although Reade knew how to drive and ride horses, this was his first time galloping thoroughbreds. It was an exciting new experience.
In 1976 Reade made friends with jockey Gary Stahlbaum and for the next six years Reade represented the jockey as his agent. In the first year, they won 17 stakes races. The pair had tremendous success, leading the jockey standings for money earned, numerous times. Reade also represented Avelino Gomez and Ron Hansen at different times. All three were Sovereign Award winning riders.
Reade served a term as President of the JABA (Jockey Agents Benevolent Association). Reade nominated Edward Plunkett Taylor as Man of the Year in 1980. The awards dinner was held on Long Island in New York State.
Storm on the Loose. Kennedy best describes the amazing results of their relationship found in an interview in the BloodHorse Magazine. “Reade Baker was the main ingredient in the success of our homebred champion and Horse of the Year Afleet, stated Kennedy. “Sure, I did the mating but from the time Afleet was a yearling, Reade oversaw his development; he put the stable team together and kept them together. Every race Afleet ran was part of Reade’s plan and then we capped the whole thing off with the successful syndicate of Afleet as a stallion prospect. The decisions were my responsibility but the concepts and the successful employment of such all originated with Reade. You could say I got the award (Afleet’s 1987 Sovereign Award as Canadian Horse of the Year) because I was smart enough to listen to Reade.”
Reade travelled to Hong Kong, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, France, England, and Ireland to observe trainers and gather information on the strategies and techniques that they used. It was a valuable experience which taught him to challenge and question what horses need and don’t need, revealing that most of the training practices he had come to know were old wives tales. His travels provided him with the insight to do things that will get the most out of each individual horse and not to do things just because everyone else is doing it.
By 1989 Richard Kennedy had wound down his stable to only a handful of horses and Reade began training them after opening a public stable, investing his money into buying his own horses while trying to attract new clients.
Hearing that Dubai was where the future was, Reade decided to travel to Dubai at the end of the Woodbine season in 1993. He had hoped to return with some new client or additional horses, however after a short visit the experience led him to write about Dubai for the Blood-Horse Magazine and it was published as the feature story.
Reade’s success as a trainer escalated each year. By 1997, his wife Janis Maine, a corporate executive joined the stable taking over the marketing and communications for the business. She produced an annual then bi-annual Newsletter which was mailed to more than 500 potential clients in Canada and the USA. With more than 45 stalls in the barn and a staff of more than 30 people, Reade Baker Racing Stable was winning at full speed. Major clients were sending horses to Reade’s care and Reade was purchasing future champions for his clients at the major sales in Kentucky, Florida, and Ontario.
Reade’s passion for pedigree and mating analysis led him to purchase several mares for himself. For years he bred his mares to useful stallions and produced 9 stakes winners, including Crystal Lady the grand dam of Beholder.
Reade has served on many industry boards including the HBPA, the CTHS, the CHRHOF, he was elected as a member of the Jockey Club of Canada in 2002.
Reade has trained 127 Stakes winners. He purchased 37 thoroughbreds that went on the win stakes races.
Reade trained 13 Canadian Champions and Two Horse that were Canadian Horse of the Year Champions. Reade was awarded the Sovereign Award for Outstanding Trainer in 2005.
Reade has enjoyed numerous successes in the thoroughbred industry as a Breeder, Trainer, Jockey Agent, Bloodstock Agent, Racing Manager, Mentor, and Employer.
In 2018, Reade was inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame (CHRHAF).
Reade’s non equine hobbies include Fishing, Breeding and Showing Poultry.