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Churchill Downs’ Huffman honored with Warner Jones Award

Updated Churchill Downs publicity department release. Photo of National HBPA CEO Eric Hamelback with Ben Huffman, right, on Claiming Crown Day in the Churchill Downs paddock. Gwen Davis/Davis Innovation

Note: One of the things that’s really cool about this is that growing up in Oldham County, Ben Huffman drove past Warner Jones’ Hermitage Farm, with its five-board black fencing, on his way to Churchill Downs (or elsewhere in Louisville). Huffman’s dad, the late great Blackie Huffman, was a close friend of Jones. Ben told us that of any titles he might carry, he cherishes most being “racing secretary.”

HUFFMAN HONORED WITH WARNER L. JONES JR. HORSEMAN OF THE YEAR AWARD – Ben Huffman, Vice President of Racing for Churchill Downs Racetrack and Racing Secretary at Keeneland Race Course, is the 2022 recipient of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners’ Warner L. Jones Jr. Horseman of the Year Award.

The award recognizes individuals for outstanding contributions to Kentucky racing and sharing the passion exemplified by Jones, who spent 50 years on the Churchill Downs board, including eight as chairman during the iconic track’s resurgence. Warner Jones – the only breeder of a Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks and Breeders’ Cup winner – was the inaugural award winner in 1988, six years before his death.

“It is incredibly special and humbling to be honored with this prestigious award that honors a horseman I greatly admired,” Huffman said.

Fresh off attending Western Kentucky University and the University of Louisville, Huffman intended to follow in the footsteps of his late father, trainer William G. “Blackie” Huffman. But after working for three years as assistant trainer to his father, the Louisville-native opted to accept an administrative position in the Ellis Park racing office in 1990 at his father’s urging. The rest, as they say, is history. 

As a young racing official, Huffman learned under the tutelage of the late Howard Battle and Jerry Botts, gained remarkable experience and quickly rose through the racing office management ranks. His various roles at different racetracks around the country included being an Entry Clerk; Claims Clerk; Patrol Judge; Placing Judge; Paddock Judge; Stakes Coordinator at Fair Grounds and Churchill Downs; and Assistant Racing Secretary at Keeneland, Saratoga and Turfway Park.

Huffman was appointed Racing Secretary at Keeneland in 2002 – a position he has had for the last 20 years – and also served as Racing Secretary at Fair Grounds (2003-06) and Ellis Park (2004-06).

Huffman was named Racing Secretary and Director of Racing at his hometown Churchill Downs Racetrack in 2006, and was promoted to Vice President of Racing for the Louisville racetrack in 2019.

In addition to his vital roles at Churchill Downs and Keeneland, Huffman serves on the American Graded Stakes Committee and Breeders’ Cup Selection Panel.

Huffman resides in Crestwood, Ky. with his wife Christi. Their two daughters are Abbey and Annie.

The Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners is an educational and social organization dedicated to the betterment of racing in the state. Membership is open not only to owners, but anyone interested in the sport, including prospective owners.

Jennie Rees is a communications and advocacy specialist in the horse industry who spent 32 years covering horse racing for The (Louisville) Courier-Journal before taking a corporate buyout. In addition to handling communications for the Kentucky HBPA, Rees is Kentucky Downs’ publicity director, manages in-season racing publicity for Ellis Park and serves as a consultant to the National HBPA. Other projects include the Preakness Stakes, Indiana Grand’s Indiana Derby Week and work for various HBPA affiliates and horsemen’s associations.