Lige Reed knew. As he was riding through the silent, red sand pastures of the Burnett Triangle Ranch west of Iowa Park, Texas, on a fine spring day in May 1940, Reed’s eyes rested upon a wobble-legged dun foal straining to stand. The colt’s mama wasn’t anything special – just a red dun mare with a Triangle branded on her left jaw and a 17 on her neck. The Triangle meant she was a Burnett mare, but Reed knew that she had been purchased across the Red River in Oklahoma from Harlan Beitch in Lawton. And though Reed didn’t know, or particularly care, about her breeding, he sure knew who this little colt’s daddy was.
The mare was in Gold Rush’s band, the palomino stallion that Reed’s employer, Anne Burnett Hall, had bought a couple of years earlier on a trip to California. “Miss Anne,” as she was affectionately called, was the daughter of Tom Burnett, and the granddaughter of Burk Burnett, the trail driver who established a ranching and oil empire in West Texas. Both Burk and Tom were considered fine judges of horseflesh, and, so it seems, was Miss Anne. Gold Rush, foaled in 1936, was bred by C.B. Lowry, out of one of Lowry’s good-type sorrel mares by a stallion called Caliente, he by Del Rey, and he by the Thoroughbred Swedish King, by Rey El Santa Anita.
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So the little colt had a pretty nice daddy, and some decent, if shadowy, breeding behind him. But would he make a nice ranch horse? Lige Reed knew. When Reed returned to ranch headquarters at noon, he said, “Watch that Triangle 17’s colt. Take good care of him. We’ve got a stud horse there.” Often, Reed would saddle up and ride through the pasture or drive out in his pickup and spend his idle hours watching the little dun colt. It soon became a joke among the Triangle hands that “old 17’s colt sure does take a lot of looking after.” But Reed paid them no mind. The foreman of the Triangle for seven years and a hand for the Waggoner Ranch for some 30 years before that, he was more interested in the little colt’s well-being. When time came for the gelding of the ranch horses, Reed made sure that the dun colt was well away from the action. And when came to name the little dun, Reed made sure he bore a name to fit his bearing – Hollywood Gold. In a 1957 Quarter Horse Journal article, Reed was quoted as saying about the dun colt, “I reckon I just happened to like Hollywood Gold. I liked him from the time he was foaled. I watched him pretty close. I liked his conformation that first day and then I got to liking him better and better when I saw the way he handled himself. I liked his mother, and I liked Gold Rush as a sire. When we took the colts up and halter broke them, it was just like I thought it was going to be. We found Hollywood Gold had a wonderful disposition. He was a smart colt. He seemed to understand just exactly what we wanted him to do, and he tried to help us get the job done. I was right glad that I hadn’t been disappointed in him.” Lige Reed knew all along. As the colt filled out, and grew into a 2-year-old, Reed began riding him. “He was easy to break,” says Reed, “and he went right to cow work just like he had been at it for years.” But someone else knew about him, too. George Humphreys, foreman of another Burnett Ranch division, the Four Sixes at Guthrie, Texas, happened to see the little dun as a yearling. Humphreys joked with Miss Anne that he was going to steal the little colt and raise some cow ponies at the Sixes. Miss Anne just said, “Oh no, you’re not. When he gets old enough, I’m going to have Lige break him and bring him to Fort Worth for me as a riding horse.” But George persisted, and when the colt was a coming 3-year-old, after Reed had done much of his breaking, Miss Anne made a decision. She summoned Reed to the Triangle headquarters and told him she had decided to send his prized colt, Hollywood Gold, to Guthrie. “Miss Anne,” Reed pleaded,” please get a knife and take my right arm but leave me the colt.” But Miss Anne didn’t waver, so Reed delivered the colt to Guthrie. Soon, Humphreys was riding Hollywood Gold, gathering cows in the Four Sixes pastures, roping and working calves. Humphreys, who has been called “one of Texas’ finest horsemen,” claimed he was the smartest horse he’d ever ridden and was filling out into the kind of horse he figured he would when he first saw him as a yearling. All in all, Hollywood Gold sired 263 registered horses in 22 crops. He was crossed a great deal on mares of Joe Hancock breeding, and the cowboys who rode them swore they were the finest cattle-handling horses alive. Though many of Hollywood Gold’s foals remained on Four Sixes and were used as ranch horses, a select few made their way into performance and halter arenas across the Southwest, and from there, into Quarter Horse folklore. “It’s no trouble at all to sell every Hollywood Gold colt as fast as they’re weaned,” Humphreys once said, “and the buyers are willing to pay good prices for them. There are far more people wanting Hollywood Gold foals than we have, either fillies or colts.”
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One of the first colts to leave the ranch, Hollywood Snapper, earned 229 cutting points in AQHA competition. This was, mind you, back in the days when shows were few and points were hard to come by. Another son, Hollywood Cat, earned 403 cutting points. Then there was Mr Gold 95, who was three times in the top 10 at the National Cutting Horse Association Finals, and third in the NCHA world standings in1965. And, only a year earlier, Hollywood Lin won the 1964 NCHA world championship, was twice runner-up at the finals, and three more times in the top five at the finals. Then, in 1966, Goldwood won the NCHA non-pro finals. A couple of years ago, Craig Howard of Woodbury, Minnesota, decided to buy a horse sight-unseen because he was out of a mare which was a granddaughter of Hollywood Gold, and that horse, Okie Easterwood, was ridden by Howard to win the non-pro at the 1989 National Reining Horse Futurity. And, in 1988, Sam Rose rode Miss Holly Tip, a mare out of Miss Holly Peg, she by Hollywood Gold, to win the NCHA Breeders Cutting. Fifty years after the dun stallion was foaled – for as long as there has been an American Quarter Horse Association – the presence of Hollywood Gold is still felt. How could anyone have known things would turn out the way they did for Hollywood Gold, a dun stallion out of an average ranch broodmare by a stallion that traced to unraced Thoroughbred stock? Lige Reed knew.