By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus NEW HAVEN (BASN) —...
A Brief, But Proud History
In the first Kentucky Derby Aristides was trained by African-American Ansel Williamson and guided to
|Jimmy Winkfield winner of the Kentucky Derby in 1901 and 1902|
victory by Oliver Lewis, one of 15 black jockeys in that race.
Overall, 15 of the first 28 Kentucky Derbys were won by black jockeys and 5 were trained by black trainers.
After the turn of the century, racing started to be a higher profile sport, and blacks were mostly seen only as stable help. The last black jockey to win the Kentucky Derby, Jimmy Winkfield who won in both 1901 and 1902, left the US for Europe and a lucrative racing career where it is rumoured he even rode for the Czar of Russia. He became fluent in several languages before he retired with over 2300 winners to his credit.Most famous of the black jockeys by far is Isaac Murphy who is considered one of the greatest riders in American history. He was the first jockey to win three Kentucky Derbys and won an astonishing 44% of all races he rode.
Sadly, his career was cut short at the age of 34 when he died of pneumonia. He always had trouble staying at the light weight demanded of a jockey and was known to binge and purge.
It has been speculated that it was vomit backing up in his lungs that caused the pneumonia which led to his death. He is buried next to Man O’ War in the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.
Here are a few other prominent black horsemen of the 1800′s:***image7***
In recent years, African-Americans have started coming back into the mainstream of racing. MC Hammer had the successful Oaktown Stable which raced the excellent filly Lite Light, winner of the Kentucky Oaks and other prestigious races. Barry Gordy of Motown fame has also had some success with his horses.
More recently, the young jockey Marlon St. Julien has been very successful in the Texas and Chicago racing circuits. However, there is still a long way to go before the old prejudices die so young jockeys can get a fair chance at a career in racing despite the advances made by black owners and trainers.