The Perfect Mix by Dave Briggs
Take one part low-key, charismatic deal-maker, add a workhorse and detail-fanatic and the result is the profoundly-successful Preferred Equine Marketing partnership of Geoff Stein and David Reid.
he burning question is this – how did two guys as different as January and July create the most successful horse agenting business in harness racing?
For Geoff Stein and David Reid, the answer is simple – they have turned Preferred Equine Marketing (PEM) into a powerhouse because they are so different. Well, at least that is one of the reasons.
On the surface, it appears like a partnership fraught with peril. The old joke is that 48-year-old Stein is the “big picture” guy; short on specifics, but long on charisma and communication. It is said the more detail-oriented Reid, 35, “does all the work”.
They are used to such good-natured ribbing. Having minuscule egos and a high-likeability quotient not only makes others comfortable kidding them, but it also allows Reid and Stein to deflect such arrows with a wink. They have heard them all.
Night and day. Mutt and Jeff. Frick and Frack. Republican and Democrat. The priest and the rabbi. The comparisons are endless. But, if you really insist on labelling them, which frankly, they both could do without, a more accurate title would be Yin-Yang.
“There is no question that either one of them alone never would have achieved what they have. They are the ultimate in symbiosis,” says trainer Dr. John Hayes, who has known the pair for the better part of 15 years.
Stein and Reid’s partnership is as unique and as successful as the industry has seen.
Since 1989, the first full year they operated Preferred, the company has sold just over 6,400 horses for a combined gross of over $120 million.
Between 1993 and 1999, Stein and Reid also ran the day-to-day operations of Hanover Shoe Farms’ Garden State Sales Company. Last year, Reid and Stein shifted gears to Kentucky when they were brought on board to manage the Tattersalls Select Sale in Lexington. Tattersalls was purchased last July, along with The Red Mile racetrack, by a five-member group comprised of some of the industry’s largest breeders.
Stein and Reid are also part-owners of a little horse you might have heard of named Moni Maker, the sport’s all-time richest standardbred.
Almost as remarkable as their success is the fact they have left few, if any, detractors in their wake. Reid and Stein are perhaps as well-liked as anyone in the business, which Hayes and others say is remarkable in an often-fractious industry that can be particularly contemptuous when it comes to selling horses.
“The death rate of people who do what they do is large. And yet, they have survived,” Hayes says. “I would think only the most peculiar chemistry that they share allows this.”
Murray Brown, the public relations director at Hanover Shoe Farms, says the pair have succeeded partly because they have tremendous integrity.
“It’s kind of hard not to like them and respect the work they do,” Brown says. “I rarely have heard anybody they’ve done business with complain about the net end of any sort of business relationship with them – whether it be a private sale, or representing their horses. They do a very, very good job and they know a lot of people.”
One of their oldest and most loyal clients, Joe Parisi of White Birch Farm of Allentown, NJ, has been selling his horses through Preferred since Reid and Stein took over the company in 1988.
“We don’t buy any horses back and Geoff likes to deal on that plane. He doesn’t like to play games,” Parisi says. “Their honesty and integrity is above reproach. I’ve never found anything to question with them.”
Moira Fanning, publicity director for the Hambletonian Society/Breeders Crown, says Stein and Reid treat all their customers with the same respect and concern. Fanning says her husband, Tom, is a “small trainer” who sells the occasional horse through Preferred.
“As far as putting a horse in a sale they have been nothing but accommodating to him,” Fanning says. “They make him feel as important as a George Segal or Bob Glazer. They treat the ‘little guy’ as well as the ‘big guy.'”
Hearing this kind of praise naturally makes Stein and Reid beam. They admit running an honest, fair operation is their number one priority. Theysay doing business this way – which they simply chalk up to being themselves – has led to some loyal clients.
“There’s very few people that we started selling horses for that we don’t still sell horses for,” Stein says.
“The one thing that I’m most proud of throughout my career is I don’t think anybody that we ever dealt with can ever say, ‘Listen, they cheated me,’ or, ‘They did this or they did that.’ A person could say, ‘I don’t think he did a good job,’ or, ‘I don’t particularly like him,’ but I don’t think there’s anybody in the business that could say that they were ever cheated or treated dishonestly… We just have tried to be upfront with people and be fair with people and that’s really all you can do. I think, basically, if you do that, things seem to work out.”
Considering Stein is as laid back as a summer afternoon beneath a shade tree, the phrase “things seem to work out” is particularly appropriate.
At one point, he actually says he has had “no complaints from conception.” And after spending time with him, it is an easy statement to believe. Life, for Stein, is perpetually beautiful.
“(Stein) has always been the same. He is the most authentic because he was genuine from the time I met him. There’s nothing manufactured. What you see is what you get. I’ve met few people that were quality, genuine, decent, straightforward, unassuming, no-hidden-agenda-type people like him. And he’s been that way all along,” Hayes says.
Brown says Stein has an enviable disposition. “Nothing upsets him,” he says. Herein lies the major difference between Geoff Stein and David Reid – the tenor of their temperaments.
Reid is polite, yet intense and focused. He is dedicated to the details. “Every ‘i’ is dotted, sometimes with a hammer,” Hayes says, laughing.
Reid, who admits to being more of the get-the-job-done person in his partnership, says he has mellowed much since he and Stein first met in September of 1986. Still, he allows that his partner’s unflappable demeanor does, sometimes, get irritating.
As a tiny example, take when Reid tries to contact Stein at home.
“His house, I would say, has the worst communication in the history of houses,” Reid says, as he begins a story about a recent attempt to call his partner.
Reid says the night before he was scheduled to take his car in for service, he called and left a message on Stein’s home answering machine trying to arrange for a ride to work the next day. By the next morning, Reid had not heard from Stein, so he left two more messages before finally leaving his house in frustration. About five minutes away from the service station, Reid received a call on his cell phone. It was Stein, who clearly had not heard any of Reid’s messages. Without missing a beat Stein agreed to pick Reid up 40 minutes later. When Stein arrived, Reid confronted him.
“I said to him, ‘You get my messages?’ ‘What messages? When did you call? I check my messages when I get home from work.’ So, that’s five o’clock or 5:30. I said, ‘Okay, you don’t check your messages until the next day? So, anytime I call after five o’clock I may as well not even call because you’re not going to get the message until the next day?'” Reid says, his voice rising in irritation.
“It’s half a game with him,” Reid says of how Stein sometimes uses his super-coolness to bait his partner a bit. “He doesn’t let anything bother him. It’s frustrating as hell. It drives me crazy. That I lose my cool over sometimes. Then his wife is a psychiatrist, a child psychiatrist. They always laugh that Dave gets upset over these things.”
Frustrating, yes. But Reid is quick to point out that stories like these reflect the smallest of issues in a working relationship that functions wonderfully well on a host of levels. They both say they are fortunate to be able to see the end product of their labour and not get bogged down by personality differences. After all, they both insist that despite on-the-surface appearances to the contrary, they are really more alike than people think.
“I guess I’m just willing to accept (Stein’s easy-going personality), because I think you have to look at the big picture,” Reid says. “If you were a micro-manager… you just wouldn’t be able to take it. But, if you look at the big picture and you go through a whole cycle and you see how things transpire, it’s easier to accept it.”
Bottom line: they are profoundly successful, so why mess with it?
“Fortunately, (Reid’s) not violent,” Stein says, laughing. “Again, those are minor things. I think long-term we’re both very ambitious. I think that’s the other reason things worked out… We kind of always wanted to do more. I think that kind of overshadowed anything else.”
hey met in the back of a pickup truck in 1986. The farm boy not far removed from his family’s Argyle, NY dairy operation, and the kid who grew up near Boston, then on Long Island.
On that fateful day, Stein, the city boy of the two, had travelled to upstate New York to the now-defunct Saratoga Standardbreds, the former stud home of Niatross. Reid, at that time, was the yearling manager at Saratoga.
When the truck’s cab filled up for a trip to show off the farm to its visitors, Reid and Stein jumped in the back. The rest is history.
Stein was at the farm at the request of Saratoga’s John Signorelli to do an appraisal of horses owned by Boardwalk Associates. As the yearling manager, Reid knew the horses well.
Stein says right from the beginning he realized Reid’s knowledge of horses was deep.
“I tell you the truth, (my thoughts of Reid then) are not a lot different than my thoughts now,” Stein says. “Extremely conscientious. Very serious. Very detailed.”
As a kid, Reid would sometimes go with one of his two older brothers to the races at nearby Green Mountain – a defunct track in Vermont – or, more frequently, the meet at Saratoga Harness.
When Reid was a junior in high school, a friend took him to Pat Waldo’s New York farm. At the time, Waldo was the general manager of both the Garden State Sales Company and Woodstock Stud farm. Both operations were owned, at that time, by Phil Tully.
In the summer of 1983, after graduating from high school, Reid became the first member of his clan to leave the family farm when he went to work prepping yearlings for Waldo. That fall, Reid worked the yearling sales for Woodstock Stud and in early 1984 he enrolled in the animal husbandry program at the State University of New York at Morrisville, near his hometown of Argyle.
Reid worked straight through and finished the two-year degree program in a year-and-a-half. He then went to work for Waldo again, this time at Saratoga. Waldo had left Tully’s employment to run one of Saratoga’s subsidiary companies, a horse-selling enterprise called Preferred Equine Marketing. Reid became Saratoga’s yearling manager.
While Reid had taken a definite hands-on approach to getting into the harness racing business, it should come as little surprise that Stein’s love of the sport was born from a completely different angle.
Stein was 13 when his family moved from Waltham, MA to a house some three miles from Roosevelt Racetrack on Long Island, NY. Stein was introduced to the races by a friend whose father worked in the mutuel department at Yonkers Raceway. The first time he went to the track, Stein immediately was caught up in the excitement.
“The first night I went to the International and I saw Une De Mai, that was really what got me hooked. It’s like going to a Super Bowl and not liking football. You go to a Super Bowl, you’re going to like it… That was a time that if you weren’t there an hour before (post time) you couldn’t get a seat. It was just unbelievable.”
By the time he went off to Brandeis University in his hometown of Waltham, MA, Stein considered himself a capable handicapper. He studied politics and sociology at school, being careful never to schedule morning classes that would be too painful to attend after late-night trips to either Rockingham Park or Foxboro, the now-defunct harness track that was a two-hour roundtrip away.
His thoughts were to pursue either a career in law or a graduate degree in sociology, but he soon realized his true callingwas racing, specifically harness racing.
Upon graduation in 1976, Stein returned to Long Island and soon he was charting races a few nights a week at the track. That job soon led to one at Sports Eye, the New York-based handicapping publication. Eventually, Stein worked his way up from charter to associate editor.
Along the way, he and his co-workers decided to take a stab at horse ownership. Their first venture was a $25,000 claimer with the uninspiring name of Joans Drone.
“It was one of the worst horses that ever lived,” Stein says. “We didn’t make any money and we must have sold it for $5,000. I don’t even remember. We claimed it at the Meadowlands and then we went south from there… That wasn’t our first choice and it was kind of the way things evolved. It was actually the best thing that could have happened to me, to be perfectly candid about it.”
Stein says the experience immediately taught him how cruel the business could be.
“It took awhile to get the money to go in again, but we got it right after that.”
His second pick was another $25,000 claimer named Golden Airway, who was plucked away from trainer Mike Lachance. Golden Airway returned some $20,000 in a matter of just 10 days and Stein’s career as a horse owner was on a roll.
In 1980, Stein went to his first yearling sale and was dazzled immediately by the atmosphere at Lana Lobell Farms.
“They had the big tents. They had the chandeliers. They had the leather-bound catalogues and the champagne. Oh, it was great.”
Stein and his Sports Eye colleague Steve Katz (now of Walnut Hall Farms in Kentucky) purchased a Nero filly named Paquita Lobell for $20,000 at the sale. Stein says the pacer paid her own way, giving him a decent start in the yearling game.
The next year, Stein left Sports Eye to concentrate on buying, selling and racing horses. He established a stable for limited partnerships called Select Standardbred Inc.
In 1984, Stein’s group bought an Albatross-Susie Flame yearling filly named Scamper Hanover that earned some $230,000 under the tutelage of John Hayes. A year later, Stein and his partners bought Scamper Hanover’s yearling full-brother, Simcoe Hanover. It would prove to be the most successful horse Select Standardbreds would ever own.
Simcoe Hanover paced to earnings of just shy of $800,000, his most notable achievement being a win in the $433,000 Lawrence B. Sheppard in 1986 at Yonkers. Murray Brown says Stein and company eventually sold Simcoe Hanover for a significant sum and after an unspectacular end to his racing days, the stallion went on to a modest stud career in Ohio. Brown tells the story that two years ago Stein was saddened to read an ad in a trade journal advertising a then 15-year-old Simcoe Hanover for sale for the modest price of $2,500.
“(Stein) said he had to buy him considering all (Simcoe Hanover) had done for him. He asked me if I knew of some place he could board him and I said, ‘Send him to us. I’m sure we can use him for something. We will give him a good home.’ Now we use him at Hanover to tease some mares. He’s actually a pretty good teaser,” Brown says, adding that the story says much about Stein’s compassion for horses.
It was through another phone call about another horse years earlier that Brown first became introduced to Stein. Hanover’s publicity man still chuckles about that call. He says it provided quite a window into Geoff Stein’s personality.
The year was 1981 and an Albatross mare Stein owned named Madam Madusa had just won the $35,000 Guys and Dolls Series at Freehold Raceway.
“(Stein) called me and introduced himself as the owner of the mare and wondered if Hanover would consider running an (Albatross) ad (in a trade journal) on her and he offered to pay half the price,” Brown says, laughing. “It’s the first and only time that’s ever happened.”
Brown says he politely declined the offer as Albatross was in his hey-day at the time and producing winners of more prestigious stakes.
“As usual with Murray, the story is 85 per cent accurate,” Stein says with a wry chuckle. “Essentially, it’s true, but I just want to fill in some details. First off, you have to remember (Madam Madusa defeated) Jef’s Eternity, who was a big deal. (Jef’s Eternity) had just won the equivalent of a relatively-major stake for older pacing mares at the time. And, (Madam Madusa’s) full-brother at the time was Artie’s Dream, who was, if not the best two-year-old then, one of the premier two-year-olds. So, it wasn’t quite like this was some filly that won an overnight race at the Meadowlands.
“I think if (Brown) would have pushed me I would have just paid for the whole ad.”
Ever since, Brown and Stein have been particularly close friends and say they speak to each other about a dozen times each week.
But while Madam Madusa introduced Murray Brown to Geoff Stein, it was Simcoe Hanover’s success that led Stein to Preferred Equine Marketing. Stein believes Simcoe Hanover’s win in the Sheppard led Saratoga’s John Signorelli to ask him to come appraise horses.
Soon after, Stein was asked to run the Preferred Equine Marketing branch of Saratoga from PEM’s office in Westchester, NY. He jumped at the chance, especially since the Boardwalk horses had been seized by a bank and Stein would be in charge of their dispersal.
“When I was approached about taking over Preferred Equine, one of the carrots was you had a couple million dollars worth of horses right there and they were good horses,” Stein says. “Delmonica Hanover was there. Tarport Frenzy was there. They were real horses. That had a big impact on my decision.”
Two years later, Saratoga was rapidly heading toward bankruptcy despite the fact the Preferred Equine Marketing branch was doing well. In May of 1988, Stein decided to purchase Preferred and he called Reid to come work with him.
“I wasn’t (working) at the farm,” Stein says, “so when I needed to know something I would speak to (Reid).”
Stein says he was conscious right away that Reid’s strengths would complement his weaknesses and vice-versa.
“When we started I really had no question, no second thoughts,” Stein says. “I felt confident enough to be able to go on my own. As far as David was concerned, he brought another ingredient to the table – his horsemanship, his experience working with yearlings. His knowledge of horses. His knowledge of conformation. That stuff was great. He was perfect.”
Stein says Reid quickly realized his role would involve more of a blue-collar approach, while Stein would work the white-collar angle.
“I think he realized maybe 20 seconds after he came down,” Stein says, laughing. He says they never defined who should do what. “It just worked. We always concentrated on different areas.”
“It’s just different types of work,” Reid says. “My background is labour-type and Geoff is more of a communicator and deal-maker. How do you define work? By what you achieve.”
Stein says, “You don’t necessarily have to agree on how everything is done, but it’s like any successful partnership, you have to compromise on some things… if you have one thing in mind, it works. The amazing thing is we never really have any problems.”
n their Hasbrouck Heights, NJ office, stacks of paper and general clutter surround trophies and mementos from some of harness racing’s great events. A Nat Ray trophy here. A huge framed montage of photographs there. An O’Brien Award on top of a shelf. A U.S. horse of the year trophy someplace else. Such trinkets appear as if they have found a home simply wherever Stein or Reid can find an empty patch of desk, as if they are waiting for their owners to find a spare minute to formally display them.
Most of the spoils came courtesy of Moni Maker, the beloved trotting mare who took Stein, Reid, their families, friends and partners to Europe and back five times in the span of her record-breaking career.
Perhaps the highlight of Moni Maker’s racing career for Reid and Stein was the chance to share her international exploits with their families. Reid and his wife, Jeanette, have twin eight-year-old girls, Brianna and Savina. Stein and his wife, Ann, have four children: Holly, 20, Joey, 16, Mike, 13 and Jordan, six.
“The last maybe five years we’ve had more of an emphasis on owning mares ourselves. That’s an area we’ve really concentrated on,” Stein says. “We’ve done very well owning horses, besides, obviously, Moni Maker.”
At work, the two men have adjoining offices. On this day, the door separating their two areas is open. It looks as if it seldom gets shut. This way, Reid and Stein can yell back and forth to each other with little hassle when making appointments, or deciding on other business matters.
Though Stein and Reid live in neighbouring towns in New York – Stein in Chappaqua, the place Bill and Hillary Clinton now call home, and Reid in Briarcliff Manor – they moved their office from Mount Kisco, NY to Hasbrouck Heights in 1993 when they began running the Garden State sale. The idea was to have a New Jersey presence close to the Meadowlands. Now that they are no longer involved in the Garden State sale, they are looking to move Preferred’s base of operations back to New York and closer to their homes to avoid the much-hated daily commute across the George Washington Bridge.
Given the wonders of modern technology, they do not, yet, feel the need to move full-time to Kentucky to oversee Tattersalls, though in the leadup to sale time they are ensconced in Lexington.
Credit Stein’s natural gift for smoothing over virtually any situation for their ability to both manage Tattersalls and sell horses through Preferred at competing sales. As an example, despite the end of the business relationship with the Garden State Sale and its owners, Hanover Shoe Farms, Stein says their friendship with Murray Brown has survived unscathed. Though, Brown points out that Preferred is still the top consignor at Hanover’s Harrisburg Sale.
As for balancing their new responsibilities with their old ones, Stein says he and Reid made their intentions clear to the new owners of Tattersalls/The Red Mile – George Segal, Frank Antonacci, Bill Perretti, Joe Thomson and the late Paul Nigito – before agreeing to take the job.
“When we went into Tattersalls, we had an agreement that as far as Preferred Equine Marketing was concerned, we would still sell horses at other sales. That was all discussed,” says Stein, who points out they will make every effort to sell their own yearlings at Tattersalls to support the sale.
As for their Preferred customers, both Reid and Stein say it is not practical for them to sell all their horses at one sale; nor is it the best for their clients.
“Preferred can’t sell 250 yearlings (at one sale),” Reid says.
Stein uses White Birch Farm’s Joe Parisi as an example. “He’s going to be selling 60, 70, 80 yearlings a year. It’s not practical for him to sell 80 horses in one place. It’s really a matter of logistics more than anything,” Stein says.
Parisi agrees. He says he hires Stein and Reid to sell his horses because they know the ins and the outs of the sales and will suggest what is best.
“You need someone representing you at these sales, it’s so important,” Parisi says. “You need the right sale, the right day, the right hip numbers.”
For Stein and Reid, perhaps reviving the once-prestigious Tattersalls sale is something of a dream job. Part of the revitalization of Tattersalls has included a new spirit of cooperation between its organizers and those running the competing Kentucky Standardbred Sale.
Meanwhile, the breeders who own Tattersalls and The Red Mile have made a commitment to sell most, and in some case all, of their horses at Tattersalls, giving the sale an immediate boost in credibility.
Stein says leaving the Garden State sale in favour of Tattersalls was not an easy decision.
“But, on the other side, (Tattersalls) has a lot of tradition. If you screw it up, you want to do it slowly. Don’t be too obvious about it,” Stein says, laughing. “I think we’ve made a lot of progress just in one year. The people there are committed. Certainly, the future looks a lot better now for the whole situation than it did before.”
In the meantime, Geoff Stein and David Reid are making their mark on the industry.
“I feel that we have as good a pulse on the business as anybody,” Reid says. “We talk to a lot of people. We try and study the market. We think we study it as well as anybody. We understand it. We see it. We live it.”
Most importantly, they could not do it without each other.