"May be the most fascinating untold sports story in American history."--Charles Osgood, anchor, CBS News Sunday Morning
"Winkfield's story is so incredible you'll find yourself wondering why you've never heard it before."--MSNBC
"Winkfield's life (is) an unbelievable ride."--ESPN
"For once, a book's breathless subtitle is accurate."--The Washington Post
"This is the stuff of great nonfiction."--Douglas Brinkley, author of Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War
In 1904, at age twenty-three, two-time Kentucky Derby-winner Jimmy Winkfield was forced from American horseracing by a virulent combination of racism and hard times. Wink left his beloved Kentucky, bought a steamer ticket for Europe, and made the world his racetrack.
There he embarked on a decades-long odyssey, rising to superstardom and winning and losing two fortunes. Driven at gunpoint from Russia by the Bolshevik Army and from France by Nazi occupiers, the 105-pound jockey proved himself the most resilient, courageous athlete of the twentieth century. In 2005, Winkfield was inducted into America's horse racing Hall of Fame.
Winkfield achieved a human greatness that transcends the limits of sport. In Wink, Ed Hotaling tells this wonderful story--this American story--in all its rich and vibrant power.
In mid- and late-19th-century America, horse racing led American sports, and within that world, black jockeys dominated. From the bluegrass of Kentucky to the fabled domes of Saratoga, one black jockey, Jimmy "Wink" Winkfield, overshadowed all the others by the turn of the century. With the rapid-fire patter of a track announcer, Hotaling, who penned the definitive history of black jockeys (The Great Black Jockeys), traces Wink's meteoric rise and tragic fall with eloquence and vivacity. As a child, Wink (1880 1974) was enthralled by stories of the great black riders, and by the time he was 17, he was toiling as a stable boy, eventually working his way up to jockey. A quick study, Wink became one of horse racing's most successful jockeys, winning two consecutive Kentucky Derbies, two consecutive Russian Derbies and numerous Warsaw Derbies. As the role of black jockeys began to wane in America and they began receiving threats from the KKK, Wink made a new career for himself in Russia and in Europe, racing in events there, winning big and even marrying a Russian heiress. Alas, after WWII, when he returned to the U.S., he encountered racism and the pain that comes with being a has-been. Hotaling's lovingly crafted reminiscence of a great athlete brings a vanished American subculture to light.