Henry “Takeaway” White, The Horseracing Genius of Panama

Roberto "Bobby" Reid and Henry "Takeaway" White (trainer).

Roberto "Bobby" Reid in winners circle with Henry "Takeaway" White, his trainer. The obviously happy man with the wide hat is none other than "Takeaway" White.

The wonderful photo above is property of the no less legendary former jockey, Roberto “Bobby” Reid.

by Lydia M. Reid

When the history of Panamanian horse racing has been completed, the preponderant figure of the late Henry “Takeaway” White will figure largely in the annals of the Sport of Kings on the Isthmus.  Although he was just one of the legendary Westindians who strongly influenced the activity of horse racing in Panama, he remains its most unforgettable proponent.

Henry White was originally from Jamaica and, according to the magazine “50 Years of Horse Racing” came to the isthmus on May 6, 1913.  Aside from being an extraordinary trainer of race horses, he was also an excellent jockey noted for being a good starter during the era of the “Huincha.” This recalls the time when racetracks did not have automatic starting gates. On some tracks riders would wait in order behind the “Huincha”- a starting tape or ribbon- for their signal to take off. At the start, the Huincha was released and it fell to the ground, prompting the horses to start the race.

White was also a notable blacksmith who originally came to outfit horses with horseshoes, a rather exacting skill particularly crucial in the highly competitive sport of equestrian racing.  He later passed this valuable knowledge on to his son Leonardo White.

Henry “Takeaway” White was also Panama’s first veterinarian and he not only took care of the animals entrusted to him but he also performed as a surgeon and operated on other horses that required his wisdom and services.  This is why the first veterinary hospital bore his name.  Trainer Eric Hugh Gittens, one of his disciples and a recognized veteran in the field, has said that, for him, Takeaway White “was the best…he knew about everything and that was why everybody went to him, especially some of the top trainers and jockeys, like “Sam” Jiménez, who never left his stable.”

During his more than 50 year career in horse riding, Henry White was one of the most important and prolific figures coaching and winning over 1000 races.  Although the leading records officers of the Panamanian Stud Book, which was founded in 1948, recognize only 866 triumphs of 5,713 races, he was recognized as bringing in total revenues of $580,499.04. In addition, he was credited with 22 classic victories and only one draw not including, of course, his successes in the Clásico Presidente de la República (an annual tradition) of 1927 and 1928 with Queen Mora, successor to the great Copiapo, and in 1947 with Okinori, as well as many more that occurred between the 1920s and mid-forties.

As for his charismatic personality, Gittens admits that Henry White was a nice person and “good people” and he always counseled him to keep the horses in good condition, treat them well and never use prohibited drugs or medications on them.

For Henry White the English steed, Main Road, was the best horse of all time who brought him two significant victories in El Presidente de la República of 1952 and 1954 respectively, although he acknowledged the quality of Copiapo, property of Don Raul Espinosa, another of the great pioneers of this activity who is considered the father of the Panamanian Horse Racing.

In so far as the national horses are concerned, White gave a lot of credit to the legendary Ivan, an animal with an excellent track record, and we must also not forgot, Royal Eagle, a native born race horse and property of Don Arturo Delvalle.

Henry “Takeaway” White along with Luis “Flaco” Rodríguez , Isaac “Sam” Jiménez and Luis Humberto “El Mago” Farrugia, have all been included in Panama’s Horse Racing Hall of Fame, and deservedly so since without their skill, patience and wisdom, particularly in the case of Henry White,  Panama would not be the “cradle of the best Jockeys” or one of the most exciting and noted racing venues in all the world.

Credit for background data for the preceding article goes to Amett Pérez K. of the Crítica Libre.

17 responses to “Henry “Takeaway” White, The Horseracing Genius of Panama

  1. This man that you all are talking about was my grandfather, TAKEAWAY. He was a great example to all his grandchildren. I am very proud of who he was and he left an inspiration to all of us. I am grateful about my ancestor and glad to meet him and spend time with him in Panama. Your grateful granddaughter, Angelita.


  2. This is truly amazing. TakeAway is my great-grandfather and I am actually sitting with my grandfather (Take Away’s son) Henry “Dicky” White and he began to tell me the full story of my family. I am truly blown away by this and can’t wait to visit to see the clinic named after my great-grandfather. I will be sharing this history with my children in the near future. Thank you for carrying on the legacy of my great-grandfather and my family.


    • Yunche Wilson,

      Good to see you here and thanks for the comment. My appeal to you is as to all descendants: talk to the old folks who are still with us and write down their impressions, memories and general responses as when they are gone, the history goes with them.


  3. your site looks good, some interesting stuff on it, keep up the good work.


  4. Christopher Demerson

    Thank you for this amazing article. I am proud to say that I am married to Henry White’s grand-daughter. Not only do I enjoy this article, but my children will cherish this piece of their rich family history stemming from Panama.


    Christopher D. Demerson, esq
    son-in-law of Alberta White


    • Good to see one of the descendants of the great Mr. White visiting our pages. Perhaps your wife’s family can obtain more information to update us, the Silver People community, on this important figure’s life in later years. Some anecdotes perhaps. LMR


    • Christopher Demerson,esq
      I am good friend of Alberta White brother and I am trying to get in touch with since he left Ocala,Florida three years ago,I will appreciate if you could me give me any information regarding “Dicky.”
      We goes back for many years,Magnolia building,Juan Franco racetrack.
      You can tell your mother in law that I am the son in law that was a good friend of the family Mr.Randford Anderson aka Zapatero,I will appreciate any good information.


      • Hola como esta usted, me siento muy alegre al comunicarme con mi amigo despues de tres anos de silencio,gracias al internet pudo hacer una llamada telefonica y escuchar la voz de mi gran amigo Henry
        White Jr..
        Si usted conoce a cualquier persona que esta interrsado para comunicarse con “Dicky”puede enviarme un correo electronico o llamarme.
        Muchas gracias por todo y que Viva Panama la patria mi


      • Mr. Francis,
        So glad to hear you’ve finally connected with your old friend from Panama. Thank you also for giving us feedback about your luck at contacting him.

        Muchísimas gracias y bendiciones.


  5. Thank you for these richly informative articles. History is replete with great ironies. Horse-racing was considered the “Sport of Kings” yet by the early 18th century many of the “New World’s” finest jockeys were slaves.

    The English were obsessed with the sport which they promptly introduced in their colonies. Jamaican breeders in particular earned exceptional fees and by the 1800’s racing events in Kingston had become week long social affairs.

    As a fitting epilogue, Kingston’s famous “Racecourse” is now the Monument Park for Jamaica’s National Heroes, offspring of the very slaves who won and lost their masters’ fortunes.


    • Mr. Garvey,

      Good to see your visit on our site again and coming from the author of “Panama Fever, Digging Down Gold Mountain,” I’m happy that your curiosity on the “cultural footprint” of our Silver ancestors was again stirred. There is more coming about the contribution to the sport of Kings left by the Silver People. Stay tuned.


  6. Mr.Sage,

    Although I grew up right in the same building in Calidonia with the son of the famous Henry “Takeaway” White, it sounds strange but it is true that neither I or any of the Westindian kids in our age group knew much about the man or his family. And that has been for me so profoundly strange because I visited their humble rental apartment more than any of the kids of our day.

    I remember his parents very well but did not know his father in any way since he was never at home. His mother I never addressed by her first name and only knew her as Mr. White but the kids I knew very well. Henry Jr. who I knew as “Dickey” White, knew me as “Juni” Reid since that is how I was known to all the neighbours as one of those “Juniors.” Yes, he had a younger brother and sister; the girl who was his sister I met in Brooklyn New York while she was working as a bank teller.

    Anything else that I could relate to you about my dear childhood friend Dickey would be from pure hearsay, because we lost track of each other as soon as we got to older adolescence. The other thing that I can say about that family and mine had come to me as a resercher and it is that we sure had the same experiences but none of us ever talked about them to each other. So that is one of the reasons that prompted me to publish “The Silver People Chronicle,” which you can find here http://www.thesilverpeoplechronicle.com.

    I invite you to keep reading as some upcoming articles might clear up some of the things you are questioning about that “wonderful human being” that you knew while you both worked for J. Willard Thompson at a racetrack in New Jersey.

    C. Roberto A. Reid


    • Dr. Reid,
      Thank you very much for sharing those wonderful memories. I’ll always have a very special place in my heart for Henry Jr. or, “Dickey”, as you knew him. I’m curious as to how Henry’s father got to be such an outstanding horseman in that part of the world so far away from the major centers of racing. Who were his mentors in Panama? Many years ago I read a book written by Hall of Fame trainer Preston M. Burch on training racehorses and Henry White Sr. was listed as one of the contributors. Obviously, to be sought out by Preston Burch he must have been truly gifted in the area of equine athletics. And how about yourself, Dr. Reid? To have ridden horses for Henry “Takeaway” White you are, unquestionably, in league with the “Great Ones.” I look forward to perusing your website, The Silver People Chronicle, and have a small website of my own I’d like to share with you http://home.comcast.net/~xitpoint/indexX.html. It’s no Madison Avenue production but merely my own meager contribution to world peace. Dr. Reid, I’m truly honored to have made your acquaintance and thank you again for your kind hospitality.
      C. Sage


      • Mr. C. Sage:
        First, let me clear up some confusion you may have that we might have overlooked. I am Cobert Roberto A. Reid, not Dr. Roberto “Bobby” Reid, the famed jockey, turned into an important medical doctor in the New York State area. Since my childhood, in fact, I have always been mistaken for him and was often asked if I was related to Dr. Roberto “Bobby ” Reid the jockey turned physician.

        Here in Panama as a jockey “Bobby” Reid is counted within the great jocks to have ridden at the historic Juan Franco racetrack. I will urge you to stay tuned in to the Silver People Chronicle for stories on Dr. Roberto “Bobby” Reid and the famed “Takeaway” White, as we relate how Westindians have historically maintained relevance in the horsemanship game in Panama and the nations of the Caribbean.

        C. Roberto A. Reid


  7. Dear Dr. Reid,
    I was trying to locate a gentleman that I used to
    work with as a groom in my younger days. His name was Henry White Jr.
    and he was from Panama. He mentioned that his gather was a Hall of Fame
    trainer with the same name as his. My search turned up this page:

    I learned quite a lot from Henry. He’d always remind me that in his youth
    his father required him to memorize many of the classics in literature.
    I was truly amazed when he used to recite passages from William Tell,
    Shakespeare, and others. An incredibly brilliant horseman and a
    fascinating human being. Henry and I worked for J. Willard Thompson at
    Garden State Park when I first became acquainted with him. I could
    never understand why he wasn’t amongst the leading trainers in the
    country given his knowledge and talent. Or why he wasn’t even training
    at all as we were both grooms at the time. I’ll always remember the
    kindness Henry showed me at a time I was down and out. He used to have
    me come to his tack room every day at dinner time where he’d cook some
    unbelievably delicious meals. He was a complex human being and I sense
    that he may have been at a low point in his life when I knew him. All
    in all, one of the most unforgettable characters I’ve ever known. It
    says in the article that his son’s name was Leonardo. Did Henry White
    Jr. have a brother? I’d like to know more about his father. Is there
    some place on the internet where I might find other writings about his
    career? Also, I remember a man Henry used to call Chief. Henry said he
    was an Indian chief from Central America. Very hardworking man and had
    an aura of great wisdom about himself.

    What an interesting life and cultural heritage you have, Dr. Reid. Thank you very much and I hope to hear from you.
    Respectfully yours,
    C. Sage


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