BROOK Holliday, a leading Yorkshire businessman and former chairman of York Racecourse, has died at the age of 85.
Brought up at Copgrove Hall near Harrogate, he started work in the family firm L B Holliday – a dye stuff manufacturing company based in Huddersfield – during his school holidays from the age of 15.
After leaving Uppingham School, he joined the Green Howards to do his National Service and joined LBH full-time upon his return. He took over as managing director when his father died in 1965.
During his time at the helm ,he was awarded the Queen’s Award for Exports in 1979 and the firm was innovative in the production of fluorescent dyes (optical brighteners) for safety wear and dyes for emergency flares. Despite these successes the business was caught between the growth of emerging businesses in the East and the strength of the pound and the company went into receivership in 1981.
He served on the York Race Committee for 35 years, joining in 1963 and was chairman from 1992 to 1997. During his time as chairman, he oversaw the building of the Knavesmire Stand which was completed in 1996 and was opened by Sir John Sparrow, chairman of the Horserace Betting Levy Board. Mr Holliday stewarded at Thirsk, Newcastle, Epsom (for the Derby meeting) and Newmarket.
When he died, he was the longest serving member of the Jockey Club. He joined in 1964 and served on the Disciplinary Committee where his great understanding of British racing came to the fore. His clear judgement as head of the committee was admired by his colleagues and feared by those who came before him. There were no ‘grey areas’ only black or white!
In 1965, Mr Holliday inherited all his fathers’ horses, including breeding stock. Among them was Vaguely Noble who won the Observer Gold Cup in 1967. He was then sent to the Newmarket Sales where he sold for £136,000 – then a world record – and was put into training in France. The champion went on to win the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, Europe’s most prestigious race, in 1968 when ridden to victory by Bill Williamson and trained by Etienne Pollet.
Other successful horses bred and owned by Mr Holliday were Highest Hopes who in 1970 won among other races the Prix Vermeille, Tuddenham who won the Middle Park and Royal Prerogative winner of the William Hill Gold Cup in 1973. The latter was sold to South Africa where he became the leading sire and is one of the foundation stallions of the South African breeding operation today. Brittania’s Rule was third in the Oaks in 1979, Hard Fought won several Group races in 1980 including the Prince of Wales’s Stakes at Royal Ascot and Off Chance won the Listed Pipalong Stakes in 2010. Other horses that mr Holliday bred and sold included Relkino 1976 winner of the Benson and Hedges Gold Cup and 1976 Flying Childers Stakes winner Hittite Glory.
In addition to his racing, this man of the turf was a true countryman and a sportsman. He loved hunting, coursing (he co-owned Liskavean Beauty, the winner of the Waterloo Purse in 2005), his terriers and grouse shooting. The latter he always claimed was to ‘entertain the dogs’ not himself or his fellow guns!
Mr Holliday’s illness, Parkinson’s Disease, was borne with great bravery and courage. Despite this and increasing deafness, he loved talking to his friends, both young and old. He was always interested in what they were doing and when advice was sought he gave it generously.
He leaves his adored wife Mary, five children (three from his first marriage) and nine grandchildren.