“There’s nothing more exciting than a harness race. It’s the only game in town.”
A native of North Carolina, Lee made a name for himself as a trainer and driver in the Philadelphia area at Liberty Bell and Brandywine. He had back-to-back Delaware Valley Harness Horse of the Year winners in the mid-1970s with Black Gamecock and Valley Ken. In 1990, Lee became the first African-American with a starter in the Hambletonian, with the Peter Haughton winner Backstreet Guy. He was such a hard worker and he loved this sport so much, Lee’s son, Greg, said.
Now there’s a race to honor him. The “Maxie Lee Memorial” is an annual Memorial Day free-for-all trot contested at Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino and Racetrack. Greg makes the trip to Philly every year from North Carolina to present the trophy to the winner. To have a day to honor him, that’s a red-letter day in my book.
Maxie Lee died in 2001 at the age of 70. Greg Lee, health care consultant, remains involved in harness racing as an owner.
I want to carry on the legacy of my father, Lee said. He never gave up. He started with a modest stable and he persevered. It was a labor of love for him.