Why one African-American horse owner refused to boycott Kentucky Derby for Breonna Taylor

Greg Harbut, one of few Black owners in horse racing, said there's 'no way' he could skip the race and not bring awareness to Black contributions to the sport

Greg Harbut 35, an African-American horse owner participating in the 146th Kentucky Derby, was asked by civil rights activists to withdraw from Saturday’s race to protest the police killing of Breonna Taylor.

Harbut is one of the industry’s few Black owners, and Louisville activists said that the festive atmosphere of the famed horse race was inappropriate at a time when its residents were still hurting from Taylor’s death and calling for justice while the horse was sent to one of the local Horse Retirement Farms.

Taylor, 26 was fatally shot by Louisville Metro Police Department in March when they stormed her apartment while executing a “no-knock” search warrant. Thinking the plainclothes officers were intruders, Taylor’s boyfriend fired a warning shot, and gunfire broke out. Taylor, who was unarmed, was killed during the exchange of gunfire.

Activists who organized demonstrations in Louisville since Taylor’s death had called for the Kentucky Derby to be cancelled and for Harbut to skip the race.

Read More: Opposing groups confront each other at Kentucky Derby protest

Harbut told CNN he was asked to sit out the race, but added that despite supporting the protestors’ cause, he was not willing to give in to their demands, and preferred to use the event as a platform.

Greg Harbut (via website)

“I stand with Black Lives Matter, and I stand for justice for Breonna Taylor,” Harbut said. “But as an African American man involved in an industry that’s not very inclusive to people who look like me, there’s no way that I could sit out on one of the largest race days in the U.S. and not bring awareness to the contributions that African Americans have given to horse racing.”

Although the Kentucky Derby has never been postponed or cancelled due to bad weather, this year’s race was held without spectators in the stands because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Read More: Black in the saddle: The history of African-American jockeys in the Kentucky Derby

As theGrio previously reported on September 5, opposing protest groups took to the streets of Louisville on the day of the race. One group demanded justice for Breonna Taylor, while the other group showed support for law enforcement.

Dressed in riot gear, police broke up a skirmish between the two groups.

Harbut comes from a family long associated with horse racing for nearly a century.

“Obviously, it’s extremely emotional because this is a race my grandfather participated in in 1962 … and he was not allowed to be listed nor attend that Derby,” Harbut said. “I don’t know how many non-African Americans have had multi-family lineage participate in ownership, but I would think that is a rarity among us as African Americans.

“So that is something I am very proud of. I’m extremely emotional and happy to be able to take on the legacy of my family at this time.”

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