Educational Facility Coming to Churchill Backstretch

by Kathleen Adams

Two major forces in Thoroughbred racing have formed an alliance aimed at improving the lives of Kentucky backstretch workers.

At a joint press conference July 8 in Louisville, the Klein family and WinStar Farm announced they are the main backers of the Klein Family Learning Center and WinStar Library and Classrooms, which are scheduled to open in early November in the Churchill Downs barn area.

"We feel strongly about education," WinStar Farm co-founder Bill Casner said. "I spent 15 years on the backside and know the challenges of life on the backstretch. This gives an alternative to the bars and pool halls."

Speaking on behalf of his family, Richard Klein said the learning center would consist of a library and a career academy where Hispanic workers will be able to take English as a Second Language classes and obtain their General Educational Development certificates.

"We're giving them an opportunity to further their personal endeavors," said Klein, a member of the Kentucky Racing Commission.

The Klein Family Learning Center is an initiative of the Kentucky Derby Museum. Lynn Ashton, executive director of the Derby Museum, said Churchill Downs donated the use of the old racing office to house the facility. Renovation work on the building is expected to begin by the end of July, and it will cost nearly $200,000.

Staffed mainly by volunteers, the center will try to bridge the language and cultural gaps between Hispanic workers on the backstretch, and their English-speaking counterparts.

The Klein family has campaigned many graded stakes winners including Allamerican Bertie, Outofthebox. and Hurricane Bertie. WinStar Farm is home to stallions such as Horse of the Year Tiznow and Distorted Humor, the sire of 2003 Kentucky Derby winner Funny Cide.

Last year, WinStar Farm also launched "The Race for Education," a national scholarship foundation that provides financial assistance to the children of backstretch and farm workers.