Wink: The Incredible Life and Epic Journey of Jimmy Winkfield

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9780071418621: Wink: The Incredible Life and Epic Journey of Jimmy Winkfield

This title presents the phenomenal history of an American racing champion who found a new life in Europe. After 22-year-old Jimmy Winkfield won his second consecutive Kentucky Derby in 1902, black jockeys were banned from American racing. Sick at heart, Winkfield began an odyssey that historian Ed Hotaling brings to life in this captivating biography. Finding success in Europe, Wink was a fabulously wealthy member of the Russian aristocracy until the Bolsheviks overthrew the czar in 1917. Leaving Moscow for Odessa with his Russian wife, Winkfield and others continued to race, and then, with the Bolsheviks advancing, marched 200 Thoroughbreds a thousand miles to Poland, surviving on horseflesh. By the late 1930s, he was training horses on the expansive grounds of his villa outside Paris when German troops occupied his house and stables. After challenging a horse-beating Nazi with a pitchfork, he was forced to flee again. Wink died in Paris in 1974, still homesick at 94 for the Kentucky bluegrass of his boyhood. This vivid biography of a great jockey is a revelation.

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From the Back Cover:

He was a giant of a man who stood barely five feet tall; a fierce competitor with a gentle manner; a gifted jockey whose outstanding accomplishments made him a pariah in his native land. 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. He could have become one more victim of Jim Crow injustice, but Jimmy never allowed himself to be anyone's victim. Instead he launched himself on an amazing adventure through the epochal events of the twentieth century, and in Wink, Ed Hotaling weaves that story with rich historical detail.

This vivid and compelling biography has already led to Winkfield's recent induction into the horse racing's Hall of Fame'one of only three black jockeys honored there. Wink tells the story of Jimmy's rise from humble beginnings as a shoeshine boy in Lexington, Kentucky, to the top of turn-of-the-century American racing. Bursting with talent, confidence, and charm, this brilliant horseman was poised to become the greatest athlete in what was then the world's biggest sport when he was blackballed by stable owners in 1903. Desperate to continue racing, Wink left his beloved Kentucky, bought a steamer ticket for Europe, and made the world his racetrack.

Hotaling follows Wink on a decades-long odyssey through the capitals of Europe. From the splendor and repression of Czarist Russia to the upheaval and brutality of the Bolshevik Revolution, from the militaristic pomp of the Kaiser's Germany to the sophisticated elegance of Josephine Baker's Paris, Wink excelled in his sport, winning purses that far surpassed his Kentucky Derby prizes.

But history seemed always to be gaining on Jimmy. He was the 'black maestro' in Moscow, living large, when he and others were forced by the Bolshevik Army into an eleven-hundred-mile overland trek to Poland, herding two hundred thoroughbred horses and surviving on horse flesh. Two decades later, on top once more in France, he had to flee yet again'this time to protect his family from Nazi occupiers. In his sixties, Wink wielded a jackhammer with his 105-pound frame on the streets of Queens for Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration. In his seventies, he reestablished himself as a top French trainer and stable owner. He died in Paris at age ninety-four, still homesick for the rolling bluegrass meadows of his boyhood.

No athlete has ever had a more spectacular career or demonstrated more courageously how to ride past any hardship. Jimmy Winkfield achieved a human greatness that transcends the limits of sport. Wink tells this wonderful story'this American story'in all its rich and vibrant power.

Ed Hotaling, a leading social historian, is the nation's preeminent authority on early American racing. A recent Emmy-winning reporter for the NBC television station in Washington, D.C., he is the author of The Great Black Jockeys and They're Off! Horse Racing at Saratoga.

"This may be the most fascinating untold sports story in American history."'Charles Osgood, anchor, CBS News Sunday Morning

"One of the most extraordinary stories in sports history is also one of its least known. Jimmy Winkfield was a gifted jockey and a remarkably intrepid man, and his life was a singular adventure. His is a story of persistence, hardship, and triumph, and it should be long remembered."'Laura Hillenbrand, author of Seabiscuit: An American Legend

"It is phenomenal enough that Jimmy Winkfield became a dominant force in American horse racing half a century before Jackie Robinson took the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers. But this two-time Kentucky Derby'winner's adventures after leaving to race overseas make his story all the more compelling. Ed Hotaling has a marvelous tale to tell. This is the stuff of great nonfiction."'Douglas Brinkley, author of Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War

"In this fine book, Ed Hotaling adds the texture of a rich individual life to what his previous work has already told us about the great black jockeys of a century ago."'Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Chair of the Department of African and African American Studies and Director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University

About the Author:

Ed Hotaling is the author of The Great Black Jockeys, and They're Off! Horse Racing at Saratoga.

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