LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - For the first time in 13 years, African American ownership is coming back to the Derby.
Two men who want to see justice for the family of Breonna Taylor have no plans to boycott or protest the Kentucky Derby, they plan to be in it. The owners of a Derby qualifying horse believe their participation in the race is important.
Their Derby hopeful Necker Island has two Churchill Downs wins under his belt, but trainer Chris Hartman knows the horse that didn’t have enough earnings to qualify for the race in May could actually have more power as a longshot in September.
“It’s very significant for all of us really, you know,” Hartman said.
For any owner getting a horse into the Kentucky Derby is a dream, but for this particular group of owners, the excitement also comes with feelings of being conflicted because of the times.
“To finally achieve that goal of being a participant,” Greg Harbut, one of Necker Island’s owners, said, “it means the world to me, as I’m sure it does to Ray as well.”
Harbut, a bloodstock agent, and Necker Island’s co-owner Ray Daniels, a Lexington businessman, plan to make history together with their horse.
“I had heard that Greg was in the bloodstock industry and he was actually seeking some African American clients,” Daniels explained, “and we started a couple of syndicates.”
The men are emotional about the calls to boycott the race, as they stand with Black Lives Matter.
“You understand the movement and why people are protesting, and why they’re upset, and why they’re angry, why they have fear,” Daniels said.
The men want to make a change by breaking through a predominately white industry. For Harbut, it’s been a lifelong goal. His great grandfather Will Harbut was the groom for the legendary Man O’ War.
“[I remember] going out to the horse park and seeing the statue of Man O’ War,” Harbut recalled.
That’s when he started thinking about what his great-grandfather achieved and when racing came on his radar. His grandfather Tom Harbut groomed 1953 Derby Winner Dark Star for cosmetic mogul Elizabeth Arden. He later owned Touch Bar, a horse that ran in the 1962 Derby, but he didn’t get to watch the race as the stands were for whites only.
Harbut says more people need to realize the impact of having Black owners have horses compete in the Kentucky Derby.
“African Americans, with the turf history, they dominated not only as jockeys and trainers but you had a lot of ownership, and that history has sort of been removed and erased,” Harbut said.
Both men believe it’s time to move that history forward.
“It was always my goal and dream to pursue the opportunity, but do it in the right way with the right people,” Daniels said.