Reg Griffin

REG Griffin, who has died aged 79, took over as chairman of the world-renowned Halifax firm Timeform when its founder Phil Bull died in 1989.

He had joined in 1957, and over the next 50 years his contribution put Timeform on the international map, with its publications being established as essential reading not only for those looking to beat the bookmakers, but for horse trainers and breeders alike.

And 38 years ago he started the Timeform Charity Day which has raised 4.5m, principally for cancer charities

Horses he co-owned with Channel 4 broadcaster Jim McGrath, who succeeded him as Timeform chairman, included Toogood To Be True, For Your Eyes Only, Beneficiary and, most recently, Opus Maximus.

Reg Griffin loved everything about racing – the glamour, the excitement, the horses and, not least, the possibilities of making money. It was his passion, born when he first walked the Grand National course as a five-year-old shortly after his family had moved out from Liverpool to Aintree.

In an interview with Bill Bridge of the Yorkshire Post at the time of his retirement last year, he recalled that a friend lived in a flat-roofed cottage near the Melling Road at Aintree, and on the Saturday of that year's National meeting (the big race was run on a Friday in those days), he joined the throng on the roof to watch as the runners in the Foxhunters' Chase thundered by.

"There was this blaze of colour and action which had passed us by within just a few seconds," he recalled.

"About five minutes later they came past again and I thought, "Wasn't that wonderful?'

"No-one had a clue which horse had won – we didn't have race-cards, I didn't even know what one was, but from then I was captivated by racing, fascinated by horses."

After leaving school at 16, he worked in the building trade and it seemed he would end up as a surveyor, but his National Service posting was most unusual in that he was able to perform it while living at home.

It was a quirk of fate that allowed him to take up the chance offered by "Romp" Blake, who trained at Malpas in Cheshire, the nearest yard to Griffin's home, to travel down every Saturday morning and take his first steps in the racing world.

He told Bill Bridge: "I would catch the 5am tram to Liverpool, the first train to Chester and the first train to Malpas, arriving just as the lads were going out with the horses. I would muck out the boxes till they came back then join them for second lot. I remember sitting on one called Perchance to Dream and thinking 'This horse is worth 2,000 and you are sitting on it'."

A friend advised him that if he got a secretarial job with a stable it would give him a chance to compete as an amateur jockey, and after learning shorthand and typing while still with the Army, he eventually arrived at the yard of Jack Fawcus in Middleham.

He told Bridge: "It was a wonderful way of life, up early and cycling across the moor every morning at Ashgill then going into the office to do the entries."

In 1957, he successfully applied for a job on Timeform, thinking on his arrival on a dark, miserable Sunday night at Sowerby Bridge station that he would stay for two years and learn the form book side of racing. After a week, he decided a year in Halifax would be long enough, and after a fortnight, that six months would suffice.

Fifty years later and he was still there.

After two years he became a director and after 10 years he was made managing director.

When Bull decided to step back from heading the company, he told Reg: "It's all yours now."

The Timeform Charity Day which he initiated was first held at Doncaster at 1971, and the Queen Mother flew down from Balmoral to watch her horse Charlton, trained by Dick Hern and ridden by Joe Mercer, win the day's principal race, the William Hill Trophy.

The following year Timeform Charity day moved to York and it has remained on the Knavesmire every June as one of the main attractions of the season.

It was in these terms that he described his: "I have been totally committed to racing for 57 years – it has given me a wonderful passage through life."

A celebration and thanksgiving for the life of Reg Griffin will be held at St Andrews Church, Bishopthorpe, York at noon on Monday.

It will be followed by a private, family cremation, which in turn will be followed by a reception at York racecourse.