Ian Wilkes grew up on a dairy farm in Australia, and his introduction to racing came selling racebooks as a schoolboy at Muswellbrook. He left school at an early age to work with horses and eventually started working for trainers Paul Sutherland, Vic Thompson Jr., and Colin Hayes.
Wilkes came to the United States in 1989 and worked for Carl Nafzger. During his time with Nafzger, he galloped horses like Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Unbridled and was assistant trainer when Street Sense won the Kentucky Derby in 2007. After nearly 15 years of working together, Nafzger turned the majority of his horses over to Ian. To this day, Wilkes and Hall of Famer Nafzger remain close to this day.
Wilkes’ milestone victory as a trainer came when Fort Larned won the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Wilkes mainly resides in Louisville with his wife Tracy (who was Street Sense’s exercise rider and is actively involved in running the operation). The couple has two children, Shelby (who is married to jockey Chris Landeros) and Brodie (who is currently working in the Thoroughbred industry in Australia). His brother Wayne is a racehorse trainer in Australia.