In terms of his family in New York, he married in 1963 upon completing his residency in Urology. He had considered practicing in Panama but after a brief trial, since his wife did not speak Spanish and preferred living in the States, they decided to go back to New York. His wife passed away in 1996 after 33 years of marriage. He and his wife were the parents of two sons, David and Christopher and two grandchildren, Danielle and Brandon Reid – Christopher’s children. They live in Tampa, Florida. At present Bobby is engaged to be married.
The greatest influence in his life as far as racing is concerned has been Henry “Takeaway” White. He was the person most responsible for his success in racing aside from his mother, who was really the backbone that gave him the impetus to succeed while making sure that he did not quit school. There is an incident while riding in Panama which represents what his mother meant to me while racing.
He relates that one day after the last race of the day visibility was very poor. At that time, Huinchas were in use to start instead of a starting gate. The horses had to be lined up equally to give a fair chance to everyone. Half of the horses were actually facing backwards, when the judge started the race. Those horses of course, did not stand a chance. As expected there was a huge riot after the race. The starting judge, Mr. Chino Young, was chased. He ran into the jockey’s quarters (where Bobby was) where the mob was trying to knock the door down to get to him. He took out a gun and was shooting at the door to keep the mob away. I was trying to figure out how I was going to escape.
Bobby saw one possible way out-to jump from the jockey quarters to the grandstand. Before he could do so, his mother managed to get through the crowd and Chino Young with his gun, and she came in to save him. Now he could not jump to safety as planned and he had to save his mother as well. Fortunately the crowd relented and left. Chino Young and all the jockeys, including himself and his mother were able to walk out.
Another time after he was injured in a fall and was in a coma for 11 days at the Santo Tomas Hospital, his mother brought a cot and stayed with him until he was discharged from the hospital. That is the type of loving and supportive person she was, says Bobby.
Overall, he says that living in the United Sates has been good for him. Not to say that things are perfect there, but he has had the opportunity to do many of the things he had hoped for. Of course, he admits, he has been unable to do other things which he had wished had been possible. First, there was the matter of continuing to ride for a short while. The fact that in the U.S. races are held on a daily basis whereas, in Panama racing takes place only on weekends, it made it impossible for him to continue his education and ride, as he had done in Panama.
When he was rejected from admission to the Cornell School of Veterinary Medicine, his plans had been to continue his involvement with racing as a veterinary for race horses. If he had been able to do so, he would have been the first veterinary dedicated exclusively to racing to his knowledge in the U.S. Since then there have been a few who apparently have done very well. Everything you do in the U.S. as a minority involves being treated differently sometimes to your detriment.
He was involved in writing for about 80 publications in the medical field, but would have had even more if he had had fair treatment. He was director of Urology at two Hospitals in the Bronx, Bronx Municipal Hospital Center and Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Under different circumstances he might have been considered for Chairmanship – even though he was not interested in the position, he never had the opportunity to reject such an offer. He could go on and on, he says, but the bottom line is that he has been very happy with his decision to build a family, and live and contribute to the U.S. In return he has had opportunities he could not have had anywhere else. This is why he has no regrets.
One of his interests has always involved the visual arts in all of its ramifications. That is why he decided to retire from medicine in 2003 and involve himself in photography and drawing. That is what he is doing now, and with the addition of the computer to all forms of visual arts, this has given him the stimulation and enjoyment he sought. On a recent trip to Panama, in fact, he realized how beautiful Panama is for a photographer to record. He took some nice pictures of the area near the presidency where the fishermen work. The Conta Costena is absolutely spectacular looking and he was able to photograph that as well.
He is also taking drawing lessons, something he had started in Panama just before becoming a jockey—amazingly he has discovered that he remembers a few things. You can see some examples of his photography on his website here which he says is a great source of pride to him.
When we asked him about his impression of present day Panama he notes with a degree of sadness that what he noticed in Panama on a recent and brief visit was that he did not experience the presence of the West Indian influence which was very apparent when he left years ago. He feels that that getting more visibility in the media in general, forming associations, working in politics and all the things that increased the West Indian presence before would definitely help in restoring our influence in the country.
He says, “What I see is a country where Spanish is outshining English, if you know what I mean. I see a very bright future for Panama and West Indians should be an integral part of it.”
We agree with you Roberto “Bobby” Reid.