A Very American Coup By Michael – Louis Ingram, Editor-in-Chief...
JIMMY WINKFIELD ELECTED TO NATIONAL RACING HALL OF FAME
African-American jockey Jimmy Winkfield was named today as an inductee of the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame. The formal ceremony will be held on Monday, August 9, 2004 .
Winkfield was the last of the great African-American jockeys who dominated horseracing in the United States . He won back-to-back Kentucky Derbys in 1901 and 1902 and also had an incredible record overseas. In Russia he won multiple editions of the All-Russian Derby and Czar’s Prize. In Germany , Austria , Hungary , and France , he also won numerous major purses and was an international celebrity.
The Hall of Fame acted after author Ed Hotaling provided the organization with Winkfield’s racing records and statistics, many of them left out of the record books. Hotaling’s forthcoming book, WINK: The Incredible Life and Epic Journey of Jimmy Winkfield, is set for publication this November by McGraw-Hill.
Wink’s odyssey propelled him through the crucibles of the 20 th century. Born in Chilesburg , Kentucky , the youngest of 17 in a family of sharecroppers, Wink started out as a shoeshine boy and finally got his chance to race at the age of 16. He was the last black jockey to win a Kentucky Derby before hard times and racism forced him out of the sport in the U.S. Wink went to Russia and became the greatest athlete under the Czar. At the height of the Russian Revolution, Wink led the surviving racing community and 200 thoroughbreds on a one-thousand mile escape to Poland , at one point subsisting on horsemeat. At 40, he returned to France and raced again, this time winning against the world’s greatest jockeys in the Paris of Ernest Hemingway and Josephine Baker. Two decades later he was training horses at his villa outside Paris when Nazi troops occupied his house and stables. After confronting a horse-beating Nazi with a pitchfork, Wink narrowly escaped again – this time returning to America . Broke at age 60, he was forced to wield a jackhammer on the streets of Queens . Never destined to stay in one place too long, he returned to France and rebuilt his life and horse business.
Finally, Wink was invited to a Kentucky Derby banquet in 1961 in his native state. Arriving as guests of honor at a hotel in Louisville , he and his daughter were not allowed to enter through the front door.
Unfazed, Wink managed to win over the crowd, the press, and again show the world he could overcome any hardship or handicap.