Last Updated on September 3, 2020
Greg Harbut is preparing for something that his family has worked for years to achieve. His horse, Necker Island, who is going off at 40-1 odds, is racing in the 146th running of the Kentucky Derby this weekend. Harbut is a Black horse owner in a predominantly white sport and although the contributions of African-Americans to horse racing are often overlooked, they cannot be understated.
Harbut’s family has been in the horse racing business for generations. His great-grandfather cared for one of the greatest horses of all-time, Man o’ War. Sitting in the owner’s box as he watches Necker Island run in the Kentucky Derby should be one of the best moments of his career.
“My grandfather bred the horse and owned part of him and, at the time, his role in what is one of the most prestigious races in the world was not acknowledged,” Harbut said via DNYUZ. “This is part of my family’s legacy, and it is a chance to remind people on a big stage — the biggest stage — that horse racing history here begins with African-Americans.”
Still, Harbut is being pulled in different directions. Social activists are urging Harbut to pull Necker Island out of the race in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Churchill Downs is located in Louisville, KY, where people are still looking for justice for Breonna Taylor, who was shot in her home by police in the middle of the night for no reason.
Inclusiveness Wins At The Derby In 2020
Harbut still plans to run Necker Island on Saturday despite the calls to pull out and boycott in a similar fashion to the NBA, NHL, and MLB. Part of the argument here is that his presence at the race is a victory in itself for African-Americans in the sport of horse racing. Harbut’s business partner Ray Daniels, who is also a Black man, sees this as an opportunity to fundamentally change the sport he loves.
“It’s a great portal for African-Americans into what is a multibillion-dollar industry and one we have too small a footprint in,” said Daniels. “There’s pretty conclusive data that inclusiveness wins — it makes for a more creative business. Horse racing is setting itself up to fail if it chooses to continue to be an older white gentlemen’s club.”
In a sport that is very old and very white, seeing African-American owners is vital to changing the dynamics of horse racing. Churchill Downs will not have the typical fanfare and atmosphere of a normal Kentucky Derby. It’s taking place in September instead of May due to the outbreak of COVID-19 and there will be no fans in the stands to cheer on Necker Island as he takes his post.
However, despite these uncertain times that we find ourself in, Harbut still believes his presence at Churchill Downs this Saturday can be a powerful statement in and of itself.
“This is a different kind of Kentucky Derby — one held in September, not May, with no fans instead of 170,000 of them,” Harbut said. “But we are here, and people will know my family’s contributions to the sport. They will know how African-Americans built horse racing. And, hopefully, more of us will return to it.”
2020 Kentucky Derby Odds
Tiz The Law is the favorite to win the 2020 Kentucky Derby, followed by Art Collector and Honor AP. Necker Island is a massive long-shot to win the Derby at 40-1 odds. It will be interesting to watch the odds movement on Necker Island leading up to post time as more people and bettors become aware of this generational achievement.
|Tiz The Law||7-5|
|Storm The Court||35-1|
|Finnick the Fierce||50-1|