Minor, DeWayne 1956–

views updated

DeWayne Minor 1956

Harness racing trainer and driver

Horses Came First

Chanced Upon a Winner

Competed in 75th Hambletonian


DeWayne Minor was only a teenager when he, his older brother, DeMier, and their electrician father, Thomas, decided to buy two trotting horses and make their fortune at the track. I was doing this more or less to keep them out of trouble, Thomas Minor recalled in an interview with The Horseman And Fair World. A lot of kids were getting into trouble and they needed something to do. Over the years, the pastime grew into a passion for Minor, who moved from grooming, training, and racing horses on the local level to competing in prestigious, high-stakes races. In 1996 Minor was named Dan Rathka Horse-man of the Year by the Michigan Horsemens Association. Four years later, he and his younger brother, DeShawn, became the first African-American driver and trainer to compete in the Hambletonian, the nations premier race for three-year-old trotters and harness racings equivalent of the Kentucky Derby. As of the summer of 2000, Minor had won some 461 races in 3,187 drives, earning more than &2.1 million in purses.

Horses Came First

One of five children, DeWayne Minor was born in Detroit and grew up in Highland Park, Michigan, not far from the Hazel Park Raceway. By day, his father worked as an electrician for the Chrysler Corporation, but he also kept a few trotting horses and raced them locally. DeWayne and his brothers, DeMier, Daymon, and later, DeShawn, took up riding, and before long they were hanging around the barns and pestering their father for horses of their own. At Highland Park High School, Minor participated in football and track and made it onto the basketball team, but soon discovered he did not have time for sports and horse racing. Later he was offered an engineering scholarship to the University of Colorado in Denver, but again, the horses came first. I really didnt give a hoot about school, Minor told The Horseman And Fair World. I did enough to get by and had decent grades. But school wasnt my forte. I liked the horses.

After he graduated from high school in 1975, Minor took a year off to help his father with the race horses. In addition to learning from him, he worked with horsemen from Ohio and Illinois, and within a year he had opened a stable of his own. In 1979 he moved his winter base of operations to Pompano Beach, Florida, for the warmer weather. It was here, in the early 1980s, that he began to develop a number of top-level

At a Glance

Born DeWayne Minor, November 4, 1956, Detroit, Ml; son of Thomas (an electrician and race horse owner) and Arleathier Minor; married Annemette Christiansen, 1991.

Career: Harness racing trainer and driver, 1976.

Awards: Dan Rathka Memorial Award (Horseman of the Year), Michigan Harness Horsemens Association, 1996.

Address: 3640 Village Drive #D, Delray Beach, FL 33555.

performers, including one called Noels Mist. I took Noels Mist when he was a two year old, Minor recalled in an interview with The Horseman And Fair World. Bill Pfeiffer [the owner] was told the horse had bad knees and couldnt pace. I felt the horse was just a lazy ass and I got him going . 1 led the horse back over to my barn and he ended up winning the Sire Stakes at four and more than & 200,000.

Over the last 20 years, Minor has traveled back and forth between Michigan and Florida, developing winners in both states. At Pompano Beach in the winter of 1990 he met his future wife, Annemette, the daughter of Danish horseman Gunner Christiansen. They were married the following year. In addition to bringing him a solid partner, the marriage to Annemette brought Minor into contact with a host of new horsemen, some of whom he began training and racing for.

In 1991 Minor gained considerable attention when one of his horses, Gingers Hot Cookie, was named Michigans two-year-old pacing filly of the year. The following year she was honored again as three-year-old pacing filly of the year. Gingers Hot Cookie was the richest two-year-old filly in Michigan history in 1991, Minor was quoted as saying in a Meadowlands Racetrack press release. She made over &130,000 that year, he continued. In 1996 he raced two big-name winners: First Banker, Michigans three-year-old trotting champion, and Annes Argyles, that states two-year-old pacing colt champion. That same year he was named Horseman of the Year by the Michigan Harness Horsemens Association. Winning the Rathka Award meant a lot because it gave me a sense that people had respect for what I was doing, Minor told The Horseman And Fair World.

Chanced Upon a Winner

Although Minors brothers, DeMier and Daymon, had remained in the racing business since childhood, by the mid 1990s they had begun to go their own separate ways. DeMier moved to California and Daymon became an Army helicopter pilot. At this point the youngest Minor brother, DeShawn, stepped in as the stables listed trainer. He helped convince Minorover the objections of their Michigan-based ownersto try their luck at the eastern tracks. While shopping for yearlings in the fall of 1998, the Minors had what was perhaps their greatest stroke of luck thus far. Knud Erik Raun, one of their Danish owners, was on his way to the restroom at the Tattersalls yearling sale in Lexington, Kentucky, when he chanced to see a big-eared stallion being led into the sales ring. Glancing at the catalogue, Raun found it was a colt from the stallion Ambro Goal, a horse he favored. The bidding had stalled at only &3,000, so, on impulse, he raised his hand and offered &3, 200. The gavel fell, and within a few days the lively yearling was heading down to Florida with the other Minor horses, including Bold Dreamer, a yearling filly who later won the Bluegrass tally and a handful of other important races. At that time, neither brother had any idea that their bargain basement horse, Legendary Lover K, would go on to compete in the &1 million Hambletonian.

In his first year, Legendary Lover K won both an Arden Downs division and a New Jersey Sire Stakes race, earning more than &28,000 in 10 starts. One of Legendary Lovers greatest strengths, Minor told The Detroit News, is his versatility. You can race him anywhere you want, he said. He can go to the front, come from the back or the middle. Hes a nice horse to drive.

By early 2000, the Minors had moved their base of operations to Gaitway Farm in Englishtown, New Jersey, where DeShawn spent 12 hours a day training Legendary Lover K for big-league competition. In May of 2000 the horse finished third in his first New Jersey Sire Stakes race, then went on to win his second in early June. One week later he won the &100,000 New Jersey Sire Stakes Final. These victories at the Mead-owlands turned heads and inspired offers from buyers around the world.

Competed in 75th Hambletonian

The Minors greatest dream, however, was to hold onto Legendary Lover K and make racing history by driving him to victory in the 75th Hambletonian in August of 2000. I would be speechless, I guess, Minor told The Horseman And Fair World when asked how he would react to a Hambletonian victory. It would be a notch in my belt; a big notch being that it is the most prestigious race in our industry. I guess it would also be nice (being black), but I really dont look at it that way.

The first African-American trainer involved with the race was Milton Smith, whose horse American Winner won the 1993 Hambletonian. Never before had an African-American driver participated in harness racings most high-profile race, however. Itll probably sink in afterwards, Minor told the Detroit News. Perhaps the visibility will encourage black people to come into our business, and get more lucrative, like the thoroughbreds. Though hopeful, De Wayne and De-Shawn were realistic about Legendary Lover Ks chances of winning the Hambletonian. You just never know, he was quoted as saying in a Meadowlands press release. Hes got a good shot at this point but everyone else is trying to get their colts as good as possible, too. Winning the Hambletonian would be great. Well just have to see how it turns out. It would be a great story. In the end, Legendary Lover K finished in sixth place in the fabled race, but he had already won Minor a place in racing history.



The Detroit News, July 28, 2000, p. D1.

The Horseman And Fair World, July 26, 2000, pp. 1921.

New York Amsterdam News, August 3, 2000, p. 44.


Additional information for this profile was obtained from internal publications and press releases provided by the Meadowlands Race Track and the United States Trotting Association.

Caroline B.D. Smith