May 1, 2002 — Luis Sosa Barrera, one of the oldest active trainers in New York and one of
a famous group of nine brothers who were to make an impact on American
racing, died this morning of an apparent heart attack while working at his
barn at Belmont Park. Mr. Barrera, who trained 1981 Belmont Stakes winner
Summing, turned 80 years old on April 15.
Born in Havana, Cuba, not far from Oriental Park, Mr. Barrera was a
racetrack regular by the time he was nine. Already walking hots, grooming
and exercising horse, he came to the United States at the age of 25, where
he worked as assistant for his eldest brother, trainer Angel Barrera. He
would later credit Angel for teaching him to be a trainer, and he would
travel with his brother from Louisiana to Suffolk Downs, as well.
In 1952, Mr. Barrera went to Chicago to work for trainer Arnold Winick, but
had his car and his money stolen on his first day in the city. He remained
in Chicago for a number of years, but in 1961, Mr. Barrera became assistant
trainer for another brother, future Hall of Famer Laz Barrera, and worked
for him for seven years. He then took out his trainer’s license and had a
strong two-year stint on the New Jersey circuit that ended when he developed
a serious hernia condition in 1969.
Following his recuperation, Mr. Barrera again joined brother Laz as an
assistant and was a main factor in the development of Kentucky Derby and
Belmont Stakes winner Bold Forbes in 1976. Bold Forbes won the 1 ?-mile
Belmont Stakes on the lead under Angel Cordero Jr., and the ride and the
training job were considered extraordinary.
“I knew Luis back in the early ’60s, when all the brothers worked for Laz,”
Cordero said. “When I first went to Saratoga, I drove there with Luis. I
feel bad because I knew him for so long I even called him Tio Luis (Uncle
“He worked hard and he was here all the time. What Laz and he did with Bold
Forbes is one of the greatest training jobs I ever saw. Bold Forbes was a
sprinter, and they got him to win the Belmont Stakes.”
Also in 1977, on behalf of his brother, Mr. Barrera saddled a talented
two-year-old’s maiden win on May 24. That horse was Affirmed, the 1978
Triple Crown winner.
Mr. Barrera again went out on his own in January, 1978, and one month later,
won the Affectionately Handicap with One Sum. One Sum would go on to win the
Next Move and Shuvee Handicaps that year. The following year, Mr. Barrera
sent out Screen King to victories in the Wood Memorial; Omaha Gold Cup;
Swift and the Woodhaven.
Additionally, Mr. Barrera trained stakes winners First One Up, Give Me
Strength, Its Acedemic, Pair of Deuces; Prismatical and Vencedor. But his
biggest win was the 1981 Belmont Stakes with Summing, who defeated Highland
Blade by a neck and ruined the Triple Crown hopes of Kentucky Derby and
Preakness winner Pleasant Colony, who ran third.
“I knew his daughter, Carmen, for years; I went to high school with her,”
said Summing’s jockey, George Martens. “When I came to the racetrack, I went
to his barn and got on a few horse for him. The deal with Summing was that
Angel (Cordero) was riding him, but he had to ride Fappiano in the Met Mile
and Luis needed someone to ride Summing in the Pennsylvania Derby at
Keystone. He let me ride, and we won at Keystone. Two weeks later, we won
“Luis Barrera was a very, very good businessman. He was well composed and he
knew his racehorses. He was a good person, too. I won a lot of races for him
when I had the `bug’ and I was in the right place when he needed a jockey
While there were nine brothers, the ones most well known in New York were
Luis, Laz and Oscar, who was New York’s leading trainer four times.
Mr. Barrera was a fixture at the races, and would sit near the
grandstand/clubhouse turnstile on the second floor at Aqueduct. He was also
a regular at the clockers’ house at Belmont’s training track.
Mr. Barrera is survived by his son, Tommy, and daughters Briana, Carmen and
Louisa. Carmen is the Director of Horsemen’s Relations for the New York
Racing Association. Mr. Barrera’s wife, Clara, died on January 26, 1982 at
the age of 51 following a long illness.
Visitation for Mr. Barrera, who passed away this morning, will be
held Thursday and Friday, May 2nd and 3rd at Krauss Funeral Home, 1097
Hempstead Turnpike, Franklin Square, N.Y.
Visitation hours will be from 7 p.m. – 10 p.m. Eastern on Thursday,
and from 2 p.m. – 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. – 10 p.m. on Friday.
A funeral Mass will be held Saturday, May 4 at 9:30 a.m. at St.
Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church, 24 Westminster Road, West Hempstead,
N.Y. (telephone: (516) 489-8585). Burial will follow at Holy Rood Cemetery,
In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations be made to
the American Lung Association.