Two Barbers, a YouTube Channel and the Truth About Race at the Racetrack

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By Joe Drape, New York Times

Two entrepreneurial barbers with video cameras are documenting the overlooked characters of thoroughbred racing, with an emphasis on Black grooms and trainers.

Rasi Harper of The Real Players Inside the Backstretch interviews backstretch worker Tyler Sousa for a YouTube segment. (Cindy Schultz for The New York Times)

Rasi Harper and Maurice Davis arrived in Louisville a couple of days before the Kentucky Derby in May, carrying their video cameras and searching, as always, for true stories of life at the racetrack.

They found one in a hurry.

At one of the first barns they visited at Churchill Downs, Jerry Dixon Sr. had a loose hold on a thoroughbred and was amiable enough to take questions from two men he did not know and who did not know him.

Dixon explained that he grew up on the racetrack and was a third-generation horseman. He was at the barn helping his son Jerry Jr., the groom for an unsung horse hoping for a last-minute spot in the Derby.

Harper asked Dixon what had changed in horse racing.

“This may get me in trouble,” Dixon said, looking over his shoulder and lowering his voice. “I’m the only Black man at the end of a shank. It’s sad but true. Real grooms got pushed out.”

It was the sort of candid, just-between-us moment that has made Harper and Davis’s YouTube documentary series, The Real Players Inside the Backstretch, a must-see for those who own, breed, train, ride, groom, bet on or just love thoroughbred horses.

The Real Players videos, which have generated 2.5 million views on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, cover just about every aspect of racetrack life. But a prominent theme of the Real Players is the important but ever-diminishing role of African Americans in a sport they helped put on the map.

Check out the full article on New York Times.

Horse racing, like camping and motorcycles, haven’t traditionally been considered Black pastimes.

Read more breaking news stories.

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