Local News

Kentucky Derby horse named in honor of owner's old North Carolina home

Posted May 5, 2022 6:08 p.m. EDT

Barber Road in Lenoir County, near La Grange in eastern North Carolina, is barely a mile and a half long. It is home to waving wheat, a few scattered homes and a pair of horses named Bug and Fancy.

Another horse, named for the place, will race this weekend in the Kentucky Derby.

Bill and Tammy Simon won't be home, on Barber Road. They are in Kentucky, to watch Barber Road run for the roses.

They named their steed for the road where Tammy Simon grew up.

"He's really become the fan favorite," she said.

"He's got more heart than you can ever imagine. He comes from the back of the pack every time, and he fights his way through," Bill Simon said.

He is the retired CEO of Walmart U.S. He and Tammy own 25 race horses in Kentucky. Three-year-old Barber Road is their first to qualify for the Kentucky Derby.

"They're calling him a blue collar horse. He works real hard," Bill Simon said.

Along his namesake road, folks work real hard, too.

Tammy's Simon's grandfather, Clarence Barber, for whom the road is named, coaxed the green acres into crops.

"He bought a lot of land. He has land down at the river and fields and stuff," Margeret Thornton, daughter of Clarence and mother of Tammy, told WRAL News.

She and her husband, Ernie – he is (what else?) a barber – remember when Barber Road was dirt and wobbly. Now it's smooth blacktop.

Bill Simon says that road and racehorse share a kindred spirit.

"I've seen the progression of Barber Road in that part of the state," he said. "It's sort of a parallel to our horse's run here. It's tough. He fights his way through."

And Barber Road is only two-tenths of a mile longer than what Barber Road will run at Churchill Downs.

"He's gonna win." Bill Simon is sure. "I don't have any doubt. If I don't believe in him, who will?"

While horse and owners are in Kentucky, true believers will gather Saturday on Barber Road in Lenoir County for a Derby watch party.

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