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Beating the competition into remission.

The Minor family fought cancer to stake its claim in the sport of harness racing

When, as a child, DeWayne Minor asked his father for horse, little did he know the request would develop into a successful family business. "Cleaning the stalls was the very first thing I learned [how to do]," says Minor, 44, whose family is based in Highland Park, Michigan. "I spent hours learning to brush, groom, and clean [the horse and stable]."

His father, Thomas--whose personal passion for horses began when he was 15--didn't know whether DeWayne's interest was fleeting. Nonetheless, the retired electrician purchased two more horses, hoping that one day the horses "would pay for themselves" through competition.

When he was 21, DeWayne earned his license to drive horses in competition from the United States Trotting Association (for information on license requirements, visit www.usta.org). It was 1977. He counts his experience grooming and training his first horse as the foundation for a successful 18-year career as a professional driver who has earned more than $2.2 million in purses. DeWayne won more than 470 races in just under 3,200 drives.

It didn't take long for younger brother DeShawn, 27, to get into the family business. Now a trainer, he spends approximately 12 hours a day preparing horses for upcoming competitions. He chuckles when he remembers his first horse experience as a 6-year-old: While riding on a steel breaking cart used to jog horses, the horse, Noble Arnold, was spooked by a deer and took off, sprinting around the training track. It took a chase lasting several minutes and coaching from his dad to get the horse to stop.

Years later, the Minor family would have to pull together again to survive a much greater scare. During a routine exam in 1994, a physician noticed that Thomas had an enlarged prostate. To treat the abnormality, a urologist "scraped" his prostate. Three years later, a biopsy revealed cancer, and his physician ordered surgery to have his entire prostate removed. He was bedridden in the hospital for a month.

Usually an optimist, Thomas was discouraged during this trying period. During his recovery, he entrusted the family business--which had since moved to Delray Beach, Florida, and grown to train 17 horses--to his sons. After his discharge from the hospital, Thomas could neither lift heavy objects nor engage in his daily four-hour riding routine.

After about six months, he was determined to get back in the saddle and began riding for between 30 and 60 minutes a day to rebuild his strength. Now a prostate cancer survivor, he continues, at age 71, to be an active harness racing trainer and driver. "I'm not a quitter," he maintains. "I just keep going. I've always believed I can do anything."

Thomas' sons continue to make their father proud. Last year, DeWayne and DeShawn made history by being the first African American driver and trainer duo to compete in the 75-year history of the Hambletonian, harness racing's premier event. The event is held annually at the Meadowlands Racetrack in East Rutherford, New Jersey. DeWayne drove Legendary Lover K, a 3-year-old trotter, and crossed the finish line in sixth place.

Although they didn't place first, second, or even third in the $1.2-million-purse race, DeShawn still counts the family's participation--as one of the few African Americans in harness racing--as an honor. "You know you're making history, come a win, lose, or draw." Two more horses, Molded Pine and Blooming Goal, have been entered in this year's Hambletonian, which takes place this August.

The Minors are hopeful that more people of color will look beyond the betting booths to see harness racing for its true value as an investment. They also hope their success will spark a curiosity in equestrian sports among youngsters, and motivate them to follow their dreams.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:DeWayne Minor tackles cancer and harness racing
Author:Dines, Kaylyn
Publication:Black Enterprise
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1U3MI
Date:Aug 1, 2001
Words:639
Previous Article:Meharry Medical College: An Investment in the Future of America's Health.
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