Horse Racing: A Race Blacks Are Losing

By Barry Holmes
Updated: August 21, 2005

Jimmy WinkfieldCALIFORNIA.—Hello my name is Barry Holmes,

I am writing you on a matter of personal concern, I read your article in Black Athlete on Seabiscuit, and was compelled to write this letter. I am currently training horses in California. I must admit, you couldn’t be closer to the truth.

At the rate things are moving, in the next 25 to 30 years, Blacks will be extinct from the sport we dominated in the early years. I agree we need to reach out to successful African Americans to become Owners, and give qualified African Americans a chance to showcase there horsemanship and knowledge. Speaking of Seabiscuit, I was fortunate enough to witness the filming of the movie, and again, you are correct.

There are NO Blacks, even the black extras used couldn’t be seen in the movie. My brother was one of the extras. Although Seabiscuit was a good story, there is a lot of good Black stores in racing too. There is a need, and an audience for more black stores or documentary on African Americans in racing.

How about a movie based on Isaac Murphy, winner of two Kentucky derby’s, or Jimmy Winkfield. How it took him so long to make the Hall of Fame, and took a congressional effort. And how he was one of the first Black sports stars to break the color barrier in sports, long before Jackie Robinson came along.

A crowd of 35 thousand would come out to see Jimmy ride, and most were White. Ike Murphy was the highest paid athlete in the late 1800’s, out of Blacks and Whites. Now, there are a few good stories, and I can go on and on with great stories of African Americans. It is so important that we reach the Black community because history will show White America has not given us the opportunity to go to the next level.

Like major races, such as the Kentucky Derby, Belmont Stakes and other major races. As you stated, the NTRA does nothing to promote Blacks in racing. There has been a few high profile Black owners with some success, and others with bad experiences. I believe they landed in the hands of “ bad apples” which every business has. I also thought of ways of bringing young African American boys and girls into the sport, this is something we can discuss at a later date.

At this time I would like to tell you about myself. I am 44 years old, and been in horse racing for 25 years. I trained standardbred horses for 15 years before moving to thoroughbred in January 2001.

As of today, I have a win percentage of over 25%, and over 50% in the money. These numbers would rate you in the top of the game. I won training titles, won stake races, won 6 straight races twice. I am the only trainer in North America to have a winner in 5 different breeds of racing. I’ve also driven a lot of winners in Harness Racing to give you an idea of my experience. By the way, I owned 90% of the horses in my barn at the time.

One would think I would have clients calling all the time…but that is not happing. This is why I am reaching out to the African American community to help bring Blacks back to one of the first major black sports. I would love to hear from you, or even better, meet with you. We seem to have some of the same ideas when it comes to this matter.

Thank You,

Barry Holmes