Half-miler full-fledged success Charles Town leader Barnett makes most of opportunity

February 26, 1993|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Staff Writer

For a while last spring, Wayne Barnett was flirting with the idea of becoming the contract rider for Oaktown Stable, the racing enterprise of rap star Hammer.

But instead, he has become the "king of the half- milers," leading the jockey standings since last fall at the Charles Town Races in Charles Town, W.Va.

Last night at Pimlico Race Course, Barnett, 26, was one of three horsemen honored for their achievements at the "African-Americans in Horse Racing" annual dinner.

"Chris Burrell [Hammer's brother] offered me a contract," Barnett said. "The idea was that they would have their own trainer and own rider in California. When Hammer was here for a concert [before the Preakness], I got backstage passes and talked to him about it for a long time. He told me, 'Be patient.' But, like a lot of things, I don't think the record business has been that good lately. So those plans are on hold."

Meanwhile, Barnett is thriving on the action at Charles Town. "I came in there cold, and people have welcomed me with open arms," he said.

For nearly 10 years, Barnett existed on the periphery of Maryland racing.

He rode his share of winners and won races on stakes horses like Sparrowvon, Island Champ, Tulindas and Sheltered Princess, all trained by Hank Allen, the former major-league ballplayer who made the successful transition to stakes-winning horseman.

In 1985 a victory in the Federico Tesio Stakes catapulted Barnett and Sparrowvon into the Preakness, but they finished eighth.

Barnett first attracted Allen's attention after winning races for him on the New Jersey-Pennsylvania circuits.

When business started to slack off last year for Allen, Barnett took the trainer's advice and moved to the half-mile oval. "I told him: You can't hit a home run unless you get in the ballpark. You've got to go someplace where you have the opportunity to ride a lot of races and win," Allen said. "Some days he'd sit in the Laurel jock's room for nine races, then ride a stakes for me and win."

But not many other people were using his services.

Why?

"In Maryland, horsemen have their preferences," Allen said. "That's just the way it is. Besides, that doesn't make any %J difference. I told him you have to do what you can do and not worry about anything else. He needed the opportunity to ride, and at Charles Town he got it."

In October, Barnett rode six winners on one card at Charles Town tying a racord there, and on one other occasion rode five winners in one night. At the fall meet he led Larry Dupuy, 64-53, in wins.

Through yesterday, Barnett had 4,695 career rides and had won 531 races. His mounts have earned $3,801,302.

Other award winners were Oliver "Buddy" Edwards, who works Florida tracks, for outstanding trainer and Dr. Jerold Kelly for outstanding owner. Kelly owns a standardbred string at Rosecroft Raceway.

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