Sunday, May 05, 2002

Jockey's family basks in the past

By Earnest Winston,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LOUISVILLE — Liliane Casey spent Saturday at the Kentucky Derby placing a few bets, receiving the key to Louisville and chatting with throngs of journalists who stopped by her clubhouse seat.

        In recent weeks, the 77-year-old Walnut Hills woman has become a celebrity of sorts, telling over and over the story of her now-famous father, Jimmy Winkfield, who in 1902 was the last African-American jockey to win the Kentucky Derby.

        He also won it in 1901 at age 19, entering the rare group of jockeys with more than one Derby win.

        But Mr. Winkfield's career shifted to Europe as racial barriers for jockeys in the United States grew.

        For that reason, Saturday's attention was welcomed by the Winkfield family.

        “It shows that people are interested in what happened to him and how successful he was,” said Mrs. Casey, who spent the day at Churchill Downs with her two daughters, a nephew, his wife, and a friend.

        “It's important because it reminds me of what my father did 100 years ago.”

        One of the most emotional moments for her came when she heard the words to “My Old Kentucky Home,” the state's official song. The tunes conjured up memories of her father.

        “He was very fond of Kentucky. He always associated that song with his home,” Mrs. Casey said of her father, who was born in Chilesburg, Ky., just outside Lexington, in 1882.

        Before 2001, the last — and first — time she visited the Derby was in 1961, with her father and daughter, Yvette Casey-Hunter, of Roselawn.

        Only now though, she said, has her father received the attention and recognition he long deserved. Sitting across from Mrs. Casey was another daughter, Dr. Amie Casey of Columbus.

        Dr. Casey is an equine veterinarian, who spent part of the day talking horse strategy with her mother.

        “I've always had a love of horses. I think I probably genetically inherited that from (my grandfather),” said Dr. Casey, 48.

        “What I got from my grandfather was the ability to overcome your circumstance no matter what's going on. I look at him as an inspiration.”

        She said her grandfather's success in overcoming obstacles was a source of inspiration for her and helped her raise three kids as a single mother and overcome an abusive relationship.

        Said Ms. Casey-Hunter: “My grandfather's only regret is that he didn't win a third Derby in 1903. He said, "I lost because I got over-confident at the end.'

        Mrs. Casey's nephew, Thierry Winkfield, his wife, Mary, both of Montgomery, and friend Julius Keller of Columbus, Ohio, attended the Derby with her.

        “Today was perfect,” she said, adding that it was beyond her wildest expectations.

        But Ms. Casey-Hunter, 54, is still waiting for something more.

        “I would like to see the full recognition that he deserves, which would be to be elected to the Hall of Fame of racing.”


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