On an April morningin 1919 a trim little man with large hands and bowlegs sat on the edge of hiscot in a stable on the outskirts of Odessa and considered the sounds that cameto him through the Ukrainian dawn. Mostly he heard only familiar, comfortingthings: the soft snort of horses awakening in their stalls, the myriad,sibilant noises of a spring thaw, a bird chirping bravely in a tree, the mutedrumble of ice breaking up in the Black Sea. But intruding upon these, comingdown from the north across the miles of the city itself, there were ominous,unfamiliar sounds, and after listening for a while, Jimmy Winkfield knew whatthey were. The Russian Revolution was moving south.
"This ain't nolonger a fit place," he told himself, "for a small colored man fromChilesburg, Kentucky to be."
So Winkfield pulledon his boots, saddled up a horse and set out on a ride that makes Paul Revere'slook like a gallop through Central Park. By the time he pulled into Warsaw twomonths later, Winkfield had covered over 1,000 miles, down into Rumania as faras Bucharest, up past the Transylvanian Alps, through a corner of Hungary andCzechoslovakia and across half of Poland. And with him he took 200 of the bestThoroughbreds to be found in Czarist Russia, including brood mares and foals,enough horseflesh to start one of the great racing stables of history—exceptthat quite a few of the better prospects were eaten along the way.
If Winkfield hadonly thought to stop at an occasional farmhouse and startle the peasants out oftheir wits by yelling, "The Bolsheviks are coming," perhaps he wouldhave gone down in song and story, too. As it is, hardly anyone knows aboutJimmy Winkfield's best ride. In fact, hardly anyone knows about JimmyWinkfield. He seldom stayed in one place long enough to become a legend.
May 7, 1961
Still, he is thestuff of which legends are made. As a jockey, he was one of the great ones,winning the Kentucky Derby twice, in 1901 and 1902, and finishing second andthird in his other two rides, an average unequaled before or since. But insteadof sticking around to become the most famous of Derby jockeys, as well he mighthave, Winkfield left America and the legends and poems to men like Isaac Murphyand Johnny Loftus and Earl Sande and Eddie Arcaro.
He went to Europe,where he rode in Poland and Austria and Germany and Russia, winning the PolishDerby, the Grand Prix de Baden, the Emperor's Purse, the Moscow Derby and theRussian Derby several times. He was making $100,000 a year when the RussianRevolution came along to discourage that sort of thing, and sent Winkfieldfleeing for his small capitalistic life. He settled in France and won the Prixdu Président de la République, the Grand Prix de Deauville, the Prix Eug√®neAdam and, at one time or another, just about every race of consequence on theContinent, including a handful in Italy and Spain. He was fourth among 24starters in the St. Leger in his only English ride.
In 1930, after2,600 winners on tracks spanning a quarter of the globe, Winkfield retired as ajockey to devote all his efforts to training. He built a stable atMaisons-Laffitte, 12 miles northwest of Paris, and he was winning races as atrainer when the Nazis came along and chased him out. So Jimmy Winkfield wenthome, back to America where hardly anyone remembered him anymore, and got a jobin Aiken, S.C. galloping horses and pitching hay for Pete Bostwick. One dayBostwick stopped by.
"Say,Winkfield," he said, "you aren't by any chance the Winkfield who wonthe Kentucky Derby, are you?"
"Yes, suh,"said Jimmy. "I win it twice. In oh-one and oh-two."
"Well mygoodness," said Pete Bostwick, shaking the little man's hand. "Wherehave you been all these years?"
"Well I tellyou, Mr. Bostwick," said Winkfield, "I been around."
Jimmy Winkfield is79 this spring. Most of the old horsemen he knew are gone now, and his own hairis gray. But he is still as straight and lean as a riding crop, and he gets upat 5 o'clock each morning to supervise the training schedule atMaisons-Laffitte, where he returned in 1953. "I do most of the work,"says his son Robert, who rode for Ben Jones during the early years of World WarII. "He just tells me all the things I'm doing wrong." When theworkouts are over Winkfield will sometimes grab a fork and help shovel hay,more to show the stable boys how it should be done than anything else, forstable boys are not nearly so industrious today as they were when JimmyWinkfield was young. Then, with the work done, Winkfield likes to sit aroundand wait for lunch in the late morning sun.
It is a pleasantplace to sit in the sun. When the Germans left there was a good deal ofremodeling to be done, but Winkfield has always produced winners somehow, evenwith a small stable in competition against the great and famous racing names ofFrance, and today the 29 stalls are usually full. Inside the courtyard boundedby the stables there is the soft pebbled dirt of a walking ring and, insidethis, a green lawn and the shade of a handful of lovely old trees. At the frontof the property stands an 11-room house, its stuccoed walls faded a faint tan,its red tile roof slowly turning brown. Guarding the door is a large, faded dognamed Prince who looks like Old Yeller. Prince is a reverse kind of watchdog,allowing all comers to enter the house, then biting them as they come out.Since his teeth are not very good now, it doesn't matter.
After lunchWinkfield goes to the races, at 2 o'clock in the summer, at 1 o'clock in thefall, to watch through a pair of battered binoculars while his horses run andjump at Long-champ or Saint-Cloud or Le Tremblay, at Fontainebleau or Compi√®gneor Enghien or right next door at Maisons-Laffitte, wherever a race meet isunder way around Paris. At night he plays poker with other horsemen or talksabout racing and days long past, at least when he can find someone who willlisten.
"He's a goodpoker player," says Robert, "but he's even better talking about oldtimes. He remembers everything."
There are things toremember.
Winkfield was bornin Chilesburg, eight miles from Lexington, on April 12, 1882, and he was ridingthe country horses bareback when he was 7. He can remember sitting on the whitefences, watching the beautiful, long-legged Thoroughbreds come down the neatroads, and he feels that maybe this is how he really learned to ride, watchingothers, wishing he were up there instead.
"In '96,"he says, "I was goin' to school at nights and drivin' a carriage for somewhite folks durin' the day. Saturdays we would all go to the race track. I usedto play marbles with the stable hands between races, and I got to know thepeople there. One day in the spring of '97 a man offered me a job at Latoniafor $8 a month and board. I was rich.
"I galloped anold mare that year that won five races, and each time she win the owner give me$5 and the jockey $5. Next spring Bub May hired me for $10 a month and board.His daddy was mayor of Lexington, and in the summer of '98 they took somehorses to Chicago, to Hawthorne. That's where I rode my first race."
Winkfield had theNo. 4 post position on a horse named Jockey Joe; it was a five-furlong race,but Jimmy never got there. "When the barrier broke," he says, "Itook him right for the rail, right across in front of the three insidehorses—and we all four went down. So the stewards had me up, and they asked mewhere I been ridin'. I jus' rode,' I told 'em. 'Ain't you never rode before,boy?' they asked me. 'No, suh,' I said. So they looked at one another for awhile, and they put me afoot for a year."
The next time herode—a year later—Winkfield won. The Mays had a 2-year-old filly named EvanStock, which finished third one day at New York's old Brighton Beach track.When a man offered Bub May $10,000 for her Bub's father shook his head. "Ifsomebody thinks that filly's worth that kind of money, then she must be betterthan we figured," he said. "When we get to Chicago let's give Winkfielda chance on her. I like the looks of that boy." So Jimmy went up on EvanStock at Hawthorne, took her away on the jump and won from post to post. He won39 races that fall at the old Lakeside track at Roby, Ind., where "it wasso cold," according to Winkfield, "that your hands froze on thereins." Bub May signed him to a three-year contract for $25 a month.
"May broughthim up," says Colonel Phil Chinn, the old Kentucky horse trader and one ofthe few left who remember Winkfield in those days, "but May never had toteach that boy how to ride. He was a natural from the start. He had noparticular style; he just sat up there like a piece of gold."
"On theground," said a European horseman years later, "Winkfield was a perfectgentleman. But in the saddle he was a demon."
Winkfield was theNo. 3 jockey at the New Orleans Fair Grounds in the spring of 1900, and in Mayhe went to Louisville for his first Kentucky Derby. The Derby was an old andfamous race even then, going back to 1875, and the crowds behaved in much thesame way as they do now. "They'd walk 20 miles to get there," saysWinkfield, "and then couldn't find a place to sleep."
Winkfield's mountwas Thrive, at 7 to 1, and for finishing third behind Lieut. Gibson Jimmyreceived $25 from Owner J. C. Cahn. "Usually I didn't get anything extraunless I won," says Winkfield, "and then only five or tendollars."
In 1901 Bub Maysold Winkfield's contract to Patrick Dunne for $8,000, and Jimmy went on to hisfirst big year. Riding at 102 pounds, he won 161 races. He won the LatoniaDerby, the Tennessee Derby, the Clark Handicap, and he believes he would havewon the Detroit Derby instead of finishing second if he hadn't eaten so muchwatermelon just before the race. He set an American record of 1:18 4/5 for 6½furlongs at Harlem Jockey Club track in Chicago aboard McChesney, the bestAmerican horse, according to Winkfield, that he ever rode. And that year healso won his first Kentucky Derby. He was 19.
"Twentythousand people saw the Derby run," reported The Thoroughbred Recordcorrespondent, a young man with a touch for the flowery phrase. "Thegrandstand was a monster hillside of beautiful costumes and shining faces. Fromthe field it looked like a huge waterfall of color, from which at intervalscame a roar not unlike that which one hears at Niagara. The beauty and manhoodof Kentucky and Tennessee were there, each waiting the result with bated breathand distended nostrils."
Actually, it wasn'tmuch of a race. "Alard Scheck was odds-on at 7 to 10," says Winkfield,"but His Eminence was the best horse that day. I got him away in front andstayed there. Was nothin' to it." His Eminence won by two lengths in 2:07¾,eased up, which brought the owner, F. B. Van Meter, a $4,850 purse andWinkfield a bonus of $500. It was the first start for His Eminence as a3-year-old, and the colt won only one other race all year.
"The bigone," says Winkfield, "was in 1902."
Alan-a-Dale was achestnut colt by Halma, the 1895 Derby winner, out of Sudie McNairy. Hebelonged to Major Thomas Clay McDowell, a great-grandson of Henry Clay, and asa 2-year-old Alan-a-Dale won three out of four. But his legs were so bad thatMcDowell didn't dare start him in 1902 before the Derby. "We trained him ina sulky," says Winkfield. "The only time anybody got on his back waswhen he needed to be galloped fast."
The favorite in thefour-horse field at Churchill Downs was Abe Frank at 3 to 5. Alan-a-Dale andThe Rival, another McDowell colt, were an entry at 3 to 2, and Inventor was 11to 1. Winkfield knew that of the two McDowell horses Alan-a-Dale was thebetter, at least if he held up, because he regularly worked them both. But toget Alan-a-Dale for the Derby, Winkfield had to pull a swifty.
"The major hadcontracted Nash Turner to ride one of the horses," says Winkfield, "andI'd ride the other. Nash was a good jockey, pretty famous by then, and he was awhite boy, so he was goin' to get his pick. So for a month I pulled Alan-a-Dalein workouts; I never let him go better than 2:11 for a mile and a quarter, andall the time I galloped The Rival at about 2:09. So when Nash come down on themornin' of the race, naturally he pick The Rival."
Although the entrywent off at 3 to 2, bookies would bet the two horses separately. "The Rivalwas 2 to 1," says Winkfield, "but you could get 10 to 1 on Alan-a-Dale.I didn't have sense enough to bet on that race, only sense enough towin."
The Churchill Downstrack in those days was covered by deep sand. Before a meeting the ground crewwould push it to the outside, providing good running room along the rail butdoubling the hazards outside. Winkfield made good use of the sand that day.
"Alan-a-Dalewas a rapid good horse," he says, "and he broke so fast I lost my rightstirrup. I fished for it, though, and I got it before we reached the stands.There's a lot of stories how I stole that race, did the half in 48 and no onecould catch me. Well, it wasn't a bit like that.
"Nash Turnerled past the stands, but then I moved up on the turn and went into the lead bymaybe three, four lengths goin' down the backstretch. Nash Turner was watchin'Coburn, the boy on Abe Frank, and Coburn was watchin' Nash and nobody waspayin' much attention to me. I guess I went those first two quarters in about25 apiece, and then I got ahold of him; I worried about those legs.
"So I wascoastin' in front there, goin' around the turn, and I felt him beginnin' tobobble, gettin' weak in the legs. I still had a length at the ‚Öú pole, but I wasreally holdin' him now, tryin' to save him. I knew I was goin' to have to dosomethin' special to win that race.
"So when thefavorite come up on my shoulder I rode him out into that deep sand; it told onhim and he stopped. The other two horses tried to come inside me, but I duckedback on the rail; then, when they tried to come around I took them outside,too, both at once. Just a little, you know, enough to get 'em in that sand. Andthat's all that saved me. Alan-a-Dale got across the finish line by a nose, andhe pulled up lame. Never raced again that year."
The time was 2:08¾,and Major McDowell gave Winkfield and Turner $1,000 apiece.
"For a longtime," Winkfield says, "people keep askin' me how come the second halfof that race so slow. Well, I tell you why it was slow. I was ridin' fourhorses."
Sunny JimFitzsimmons, the famous old gentleman who was to train three later Derbywinners, Gallant Fox, Omaha and Johnstown, didn't know Winkfield, but he knewof him. "I was riding on the outlaw tracks," says Mr. Fitz, "and hewas in the big time. But I heard of him, of course, and he must have been oneof the great ones. They were horsemen in those days.
"A jockey wouldride his mount in the morning and sometimes even cooled him off. So he knew hishorse because he'd worked him. Now you have to lead a jockey to the horse he'sgoing to ride, put him in the saddle, lead him to the post and take him offwhen he's through. All a jockey's interested in these days is sleeping untilnoon and then going off to some nightclub after the race is over.
"They don'tknow anything about the other horses in the race. With these big fields, theyride their own race and, if everything goes just right, they win. I'm nottalking about Arcaro and Shoemaker and good boys like that; I suppose theywould have won races anytime. But it took more skill and judgment to beat agood four-or five-horse field like you had then because you had to study eachhorse in the race. That's what Winkfield evidently did in 1902. He was aprofessional."
When Winkfield wentup on Early at Louisville in 1903 the only other man to have won two straightKentucky Derbies was Isaac Murphy—and no one has won two in a row since. Jimmywas so sure he could win again that it cost him the race. He had the favoritefor the first time, at 3 to 5, and he sent Early out like his name. ButWinkfield grabbed the lead too soon, and as the six-horse field came into thestretch, Early began to tire, running wide. Judge Himes, at the second-longestodds in the race, 10 to 1, slipped through on the inside, fought Early down thestretch and won by three-quarters of a length going away.
"I lost myhead," says Winkfield now. "I sure wanted to win that race. When thatboy come to me at the 16th pole I could have fouled him a little; I was such abig favorite they'd never have disqualified me, not in that race. But I let himgo, and he won."
Winkfield neveragain rode in the Derby, a fact that caused considerable speculation in lateryears. Few people, however, ever learned the real reason. Some felt it wasbecause he couldn't make the weight anymore, but Winkfield laughs at this.Others said the white jockeys were beginning to gang up on the Negroes—and itis true that this had a great deal to do with their virtual disappearance fromthe American racing scene—but Winkfield says he was always treated well.Colonel Chinn, who calls Winkfield "the finest colored man I ever knew,with a heart as big as all outdoors," blames Jimmy's exodus on thelegislation that made racing illegal for several years in some of the easternstates and moved the big meetings to places like Butte, Mont, and Salt LakeCity and Hamilton, Ont. "Racing here was nothing," says Colonel Chinn."A good boy was forced to leave the country if he wanted to ride."
Winkfield, however,says it was none of these. "I left," he says, with a chuckle,"because I got too smart for my pants."
He had agreed toride The Minute Man for the wealthy breeder and owner, John E. Madden, in TheFuturity at Sheepshead Bay that fall of 1903. This was a $60,000 race, richestin the country at the time, and the favorite was High Ball, owned by Bub May.But May had no jockey. "He come to me," says Winkfield, "andoffered me $3,000 to ride his colt. 'I'm ridin' for Madden,' I told him.'Well,' he said, 'there's $3,000 here if you change your mind.'
"So I changedmy mind. At the last minute I told Mr. Madden I'd got mixed up, that I'dalready promised Bub May I'd ride for him. 'Course I didn't fool Madden aminute. But I rode High Ball, and we got left at the post and finished sixth.The Minute Man was third. After the race Mr. Madden he come up to me and said,'Winkfield, I don't like to be doublecrossed. If you're not goin' to ride myhorses, you're not goin' to ride for anybody.' So that winter when I got achance to go to Russia I went."
Russia's mostsuccessful trainer during the years of 1902 and 1903 was, strangely enough, anAmerican, J. O. Keene, for whose family the Keeneland race track was named. Butlate in the 1903 season both Jack Keene and his best jockey, a boy namedMitchell, were suspended after a doping investigation in Moscow, and Keeneasked Winkfield to go to Russia and look after things until he could get backover there. So Jimmy headed for Europe in March. Since the Russian seasondidn't begin until April, Winkfield went first to a farm near Warsaw where theKeene string was in training. He couldn't find a soul who knew a word ofEnglish.
"They gave me abook so I could learn Polish," he says, "and I rode two winners onopening day at Warsaw. Keene had about 50 horses in training there, and theywere the best around. It was like riding for Calumet."
When Keene failedto show up—he didn't get back to Russia until 1909—an Armenian oil man namedMichael Lazareff, who owned most of the horses, hired two trainers to replacehim, one a Russian, the other a Pole. The best horses in the stable he sent toMoscow, the others to St. Petersburg.
"I went toMoscow," says Winkfield, "and won the Emperor's Purse that year, worthabout 50,000 rubles, and finished second in the Moscow Derby. We really cleanedup. There were a few other good horses around, but they mostly belonged tosmall stables. Lazareff had a strategy: we was to hold back his horses in arace, winnin' by only a head or a neck and make the other jockeys use theirmounts up, figurin' they still had a chance to win. After a few weeks of thisLazareff had the only fresh horses in Moscow. The rest was wore out.
"Czar Nicholashad a small stable, maybe eight or 10 horses. They weren't much good, but hehad a system: when he won he kept only 25% of the purse and gave the rest tothe second horse, so he won quite a few races. He never paid his jockeysnothin', though, maybe 4,000 rubles, so I never rode for him."
In 1909 Winkfieldleft Lazareff and went to Austria and Germany, where he rode for a Polishprince named Lobomorski and the German Baron von Oppenheim. He won the GrandPrix de Baden, worth 100,000 marks, and he won a small race one day that he'llnever forget.
"The baron hadthis balky colt that looked like he could run if anybody ever got himgoin'," says Winkfield, "and I kept after him to let me ride the horse.But I was gettin' pretty famous over there by then, and the baron said no, if Irode him the people would bet on me and lose their money 'cause that coltdidn't have a chance. But finally he gave in. At the start the field was 15lengths up the track before I could get this colt movin'. Then we get to thestretch, and I give him a cluck or two and off we go. He run so fast the othersnever see us comin'. We win by eight lengths."
Léon Mantacheff wasan Armenian with even more oil wells than Lazareff, and he hired Winkfield tocome back to Russia in 1913. He paid Jimmy 25,000 rubles a year plus 10% of allpurses, an income which enabled Jimmy to live in a suite at the National Hotelwith a valet and eat caviar for breakfast.
He says, "I wasat the top of the tree."
He could eatanything, for he never weighed more than 104 pounds, and all a jockey had tomake there was 114. There was an allowance for horses born in Russia, soMantacheff, who could afford such practices, would send his mares to Englishstuds and then bring them back to Russia to foal.
"We sure won alot of races," Wink-field says. "I won 130 one year ridin' only threetimes a week. The season didn't open till May 14—I remember in 1917 they had topush snow off the tracks for a race, then push it back on so the ground didn'tfreeze overnight—and it would end early in October.
"Before therevolution, that was a good country. And I never had to pay no incometax."
The place was fullof British and American jockeys, most of them boys who could no longer make the105-pound limit, and those who could hold their vodka consumption down to aquart or so a day managed to do well. "None of them Russian jockeys wasmuch good," says Winkfield. "The only one I remember doin' anything wasa fella named Molotov."
When the revolutionstruck, Winkfield remembers that people were "like rabbits in the woods.They didn't know which way to go." But for some reason, the Communistsdidn't concern themselves immediately with the liquidation of race tracks."Nobody bothered us so long as we stayed dirty and wore old clothes,"Jimmy recalls. "But if we'd ever dressed up, they'd have figured we wasaristocrats." So the Bolsheviks let the tracks run, but they stopped allbetting on the races and as soon as the money was run off in the Jockey Clubpool, there was no reason to race in Moscow any more. Since the Bolshevikviolence had not yet erupted as far south as Odessa, which was something of aHialeah of Czarist Russia, all the good Thoroughbreds were sent there, to rununharmed through the 1918 season.
But on the morningof April 4, 1919 the terror struck—and Winkfield fled. He could have escapedalone, but the racing colony was full of old friends, with their wives andchildren, and there was also the matter of 200 of the finest blooded horses inEurope. Winkfield was damned if he was going to leave them to be eaten like hotdogs by the Reds. So Jimmy and a Polish nobleman, a general named Dossievski,rounded up the horses and the people and set out for the Rumanian border.
Trouble joined themfrom the first. They were fired upon by villagers who mistook them formarauding Bolshevik troops. Others thought that they were gypsies and refusedto give them food. "Once," says Winkfield, "we come upon this cow.But it was Lent, and no one would eat her. We drive her along for 20, 30 miles,trying to get her to Easter. We finally swapped her for a pig and ate him onEaster Sunday."
In Bucharest theyput the women and children on a train for Warsaw and started off again. Thefeed wagons broke down and, without hay or grain, the horses had to live ongreen grass. They began to die. Some were eaten. By the time the little armystruggled into Warsaw on June 29 there were only 150 horses left, and not oneof them could have run around a house.
"There wasn't aone ever won another race," says Winkfield, "and I'll tell you why.Things were so bad that winter in Poland, they were all eaten up beforespring."
Winkfield rode in afew races in Warsaw in 1920—he has no idea where those horses came from—andonce rode before a U.S. visitor named Herbert Hoover, who made a little speechin the grandstand. That summer Léon Mantacheff, who had reached Paris safely,sent for Jimmy.
"I had a lot oftrouble at first in France," says Winkfield. "I was used to miletracks, and around Paris they was all a mile and a half. The stretch wentthree-eighths. I always wanted to go out too soon. I was stubborn, I guess; I'dalways rode that way, and I wasn't fixin' to change now. But one day I got leftat the post; I figured I had no chance, so I relaxed and just let that horsegallop to the three-quarter pole. We were goin' a mile and a half, and by thetime we got half a mile from the finish I was movin' up. You know, I almost wonthat race. Lost by a head, and after that everything was all right.
"I learned tostay back, let the other horses break the wind, then I would come on in thelast eighth. I rode some good horses through the years there. There was onenamed Gaurisankar: I won the Prix Eugéne Adam on him. But I guess the best ofthe lot was Bahadur. In the Prix du Président de la République one year I rodehim against Lucien Lyne, who rode with me back in Kentucky when I was a kid. Hewas ridin' for King Alphonso of Spain on the best horse there, name Ruban, andI beat him. I never made anything like the money I made in Russia, but I savedsome and in 1930, when I was 48, I rode my last race. I bought this place hereat Maisons-Laffitte and went to trainin'."
Colonel Chinnremembers seeing Winkfield in Paris in those days. "I'd just sold 53 horsesin Berlin," he says, "and was on my way back home. All the Americans inParis went to the races, of course. They would lose their money and lay forWinkfield. They would hit him for a five spot for supper. I suppose he fed anaverage of 10 Americans a day over there. He was a man with a heart."
In 1922 Winkfieldhad married a Russian girl named Lydia de Minkiwitz, a member of the oldaristocracy who had fled the revolution with her father, a famous engineer.Robert was born in 1923 and a daughter, Lillian, a year later. By 1939,handling Mantacheff's horses—and a few of his own, which he managed to acquirein place of unpaid feed bills—Winkfield was making a name for himself as atrainer. One of his jockeys, in gentlemen's races, was Aly Khan.
"He rodeGouyate for me more than 20 years ago," Winkfield remembers now. "Hewas pretty good, but he didn't last long. He liked to have a goodtime."
Then the Germanscame.
"I was stillan American citizen," Winkfield says, "so I went to the embassy andasked them what to do. 'Well,' they told me, 'we won't tell you to leave. Butneither do we suggest that you stay.' We left."
The Winkfieldsremained in America until 1953, and in that time only Robert got back toFrance. He was drafted, put in the infantry and sent to Europe. One day in thelate summer of '44, as the Allied Armies moved in on Paris, Robert realized hisoutfit was within six miles of Maisons-Laffitte. "I went to thecaptain," Robert says, "and told him that my home was close by, andwould it be all right if I ran over there in a jeep. 'O.K.,' he said, 'just becareful. The Germans aren't completely cleaned out of that area yet.' So Idrove right down the road and into town, and there were a lot of my oldfriends. I told them I had come to liberate Maisons-Laffitte. So we had alittle wine to celebrate, and it was turnin' into a pretty good party when anold neighbor ran up. 'You'd better unliberate fast,' he said. 'There's a Germantank comin' through the woods.' So I got out—and didn't get back until1953."
During the war andin the years following, Jimmy Winkfield worked for Pete Bostwick and then for anumber of other owners, but he also began to train once again for himself. Hepicked up a horse named Little Rocket for $100 off a Florida farm and won$10,000 with him around the Delaware and Ohio tracks. He saw an apprenticejockey named Bill Hartack who was trying to get some mounts and gave him a fewrides at the three-quarter mile track in Charlestown. His place in Paris wasrented, and he probably would have remained in America the rest of hislife—Lillian had married a Cincinnati surgeon, Dr. Edmond C. Casey, and Jimmywas a grandfather now—except that he decided to take a quick trip to France andsell out. "When I got to Maisons-Laffitte," he says, "some ownersI'd trained for before the war got after me to stay. And then my wife startedin; she'd always wanted to go back. And first thing you know, here I was again.I called Robert to come over and help me, and we've been here eversince."
Winkfield has nothad the success as a trainer that he had before the war, when he won France'sbiggest race, the Grand Prix de Paris, with Transvaal, but then he no longerhas Mantacheff's horses. Still, the Winkfields do all right. They have areputation for producing an occasional outstanding horse from their smallstable, and the best at the moment is a splendid 5-year-old mare namedFrancillon. "She's the best handicap mare in France," says Robert."She won the 3½-million-franc Prix de l'Élevage the last two years, firsttime a mare ever did that. She has such big handicaps now we may jump her thisyear. She was a jumper as a 3-year-old, but she had so much speed we changedher to the flats. I think she'll clean up as a steeplechaser."
"She's toogood to jump," says Jimmy, shaking his head a bit sadly, "but you can'ttell this Robert anything. All he wants to do is hurry, hurry. He's like BenJones."
Last DecemberJimmy Winkfield returned to America to die. "I had to have anoperation," he said. "I could of had just as good an operation inParis, but I knew I was goin' to die and I wanted to die back in Kentucky."Instead of dying, within two weeks of leaving the hospital Winkfield wasbouncing around his daughter's home in Cincinnati, playing with his threegranddaughters and eating pork chops for lunch. Now he thinks he'll go to theKentucky Derby.
"When theleaves commence comin' on the trees I want to get back toMaisons-Laffitte," he says. "I want to be with the horses. But I guessI can put it off a little while. I never been back to the Derby since I lastrode there in 1903.
"No, I don'tplan to tell anyone I'm comin' to Kentucky. My goodness, they wouldn't rememberme. Who can remember back 60 years?"