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Lester Reiff

Lester Reiff
Circa 1900.
Occupation Jockey, Real estate broker
Birthplace Americus, Missouri
United States
Birth date April 26, 1877
Death date October 10, 1948
Career wins 549: 143-?-? (UK, 1900)
Major racing wins, honours & awards
Major racing wins

Spindrift Stakes (1895)
Lawrence Realization Stakes (1895)

International race wins:
Final Plate (1900)
Epsom Derby (1901)
Racing awards
British flat racing Champion Jockey (1900)
Significant horses

File:Lester Reiff Vanity Fair.jpg
1900 Vanity Fair caricature of Lester Reiff drawn by Spy (Leslie Ward).

Lester Berchart Reiff (1877-1948) was an American jockey who achieved racing acclaim in the United Kingdom in the first decade of the twentieth century. In 1900, he was the number one jockey racing in Britain based on earnings, beating other prominent American jockeys such as Tod Sloan, Danny Maher, Skeets Martin and his younger brother, John Reiff, that were also racing in Britain at the time.[1] The Reiff brothers were implicated in a horse doping scandal in late 1901, which led to the revocation of Lester Reiff's license and the end of his racing career.[2][3]


Early life and U.S. racing career

Lester B. Reiff was born on April 26, 1877,[4] in Americus, Missouri, to John Wesley Reiff and Elizabeth Jane (neé Wandel) Reiff.[5] His brothers, John (1885-1974) and Delbert (1879-1976), were also employed in the Thoroughbred racing industry. John Reiff is a US Racing Hall of Fame inductee and Delbert Reiff was a horse trainer that ran a horse importing business from Maisons-Laffitte, France.[6][5] The Reiff family moved to Findlay, Ohio, in the 1880s, and Lester became a jockey apprentice as a teenager. He raced for horse trainer Enoch Wishard in 1894 but was suspended numerous times for throwing races and was barred from horse racing in late 1894 and the early months of 1895.[7][8]

U.K. racing career

Reiff traveled to the United Kingdom with Wishard in 1896 to race for the stable of Tammany Hall boss Richard Croker.[9] Reiff was again suspended in July 1896 for interfering with another horse while running the Goodwood Cup in London and he returned to the United States to race in a few minor stakes races.[10] In 1900 his license was reinstated and he was contracted for $15,000 to race for Croker.[11] Lester Reiff won 143 races out of 549 mounts in 1900, heading the list of winning jockeys in Britain, and he was the first non-British jockey to accomplish this feat.[1] In 1901, Reiff won the Epsom Derby aboard Volodyovski.


In October 1901, Lester Reiff and his younger brother John were reprimanded by the Jockey Club for alleged race fixing by "pulling" or slowing the horse so it will not win.[2] Lord Durham also accused the brothers of involvement in a horse doping ring along with Enoch Wishard, William C. Whitney and other American gamblers. While "doping" with performance enhancing stimulants was illegal at the time in the United States, it was still permissible in the UK in 1901 and was not outlawed until 1904.[3] Lester Reiff's license was revoked for the 1902 season due to these incidents and he was barred or "warned off" from racing in other countries.[2] His license was reinstated in 1904 but he did not pursue horse racing again.

File:Skeets Martin, Tod Sloan, M. Cannon at 1900 Produce Stakes.jpg
Lester Reiff (left) on Little Gent, Tod Sloan on Princess Melton and British jockey Mornington Cannon at 1900 Produce Stakes run at Newmarket Racecourse.

Retirement from racing and personal life

Reiff married Frances Rowell, the daughter of California physician and horseman Harry E. Rowell, in December 1901.[12] Reiff retired from racing in 1902 and moved to Alameda with his wife. Lester Reiff became a real-estate broker and venture capitalist, managing the property of his family and several friends until his death on October 10, 1948, in Alameda.[13]


  1. 1.0 1.1 New York Times. "Lester Reiff's Record." November 25, 1900.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 New York Times. "Reiff's license revoked." October 2, 1901.
  3. 3.0 3.1 New York Times. "Turfmen still agitated." October 29, 1900.
  4. Ancestry Library. WWI draft registration and 1920 US Census listing him living with his in-laws, the Rowells.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Ancestry Library. U.S. Passport application for his brother Delbert Reiff with signed affidavit from his mother, also signed by Lester Reiff's father-in-law Harry Rowell, 1916.
  6. Thoroughbred Times. "Foundation mares: Ampola." April 22, 2000.
  7. New York Times. "JOCKEY REIFF SUSPENDED; PUNISHED FOR ALLOWING WATTERSON TO BE BEATEN ON SATURDAY. Owners and Trainers of the Horse, However, Have Not Yet Been Dealt With -- Don Alonzo Won the Brookdale Handicap After Ed Kearney Bolted and Broke His Bridle Rein -- Some of the Gossip of the Betting Ring and the Paddock." May 29, 1894.
  8. New York Times. "Punishment for Jockeys." Oct 8, 1894
  9. The Washington Post. " RACING FIELD IS CLEAR." Dec 2, 1895.
  10. New York Times. "Jockey Reiff Suspended." July 30, 1896.
  11. New York Times. "The Reiffs will ride for Croker." December 24, 1899.
  12. New York Times. " Lester Reiff Marries." December 27, 1901.
  13. Ancestry Library. California Death Search, same birth date as WWI enlistment slip, born in Missouri.


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