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When African-American Jockies Dominated the Sport

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  • When African-American Jockies Dominated the Sport

    History not many people know about.


    From the video info:

    When one researches the VERY FIRST Kentucky Derby, one will find that 13 of the 15 jockeys in the race were BLACK! Furthermore, of the first 28 Derby winners, 15 of them were black men. Going back to that first KENTUCKY DERBY, held on May 17, 1875, the winner was a 19 year-old black native of Kentucky named Oliver Lewis. It was reported that mobs of white spectators cheered for Lewis as he rode his horse, ARISTIDES to a record setting victory. In 1877, a 17 year-old black young man by the name of William Walker won the prestigious race at Churchill Downs. Quite frankly, blacks dominated the sport of horse racing in the early years. An African-American by the name Isaac Murphy was the first jockey to win 3 KENTUCKY DERBYS in 1884, 1890, and 1891. In fact, he won an unprecedented 44% of all of his races. (Thats unheard of!) Many black jockeys were introduced to horse racing at a young age partly because their light weight virtually made the horse feel that it wasnt carrying a load. So it is of no surprise that the black jockey named James Soup Perkins, who won the Derby in 1895, began racing at age 11. The youngest black jockey to ever win at Churchill Downs was Alonzo Lonnie Clayton who rode to victory at age 15 in 1892. By the year 1921, racism and bigotry in America eventually drove the black jockeys out of the sport. White racing fans that grew increasingly in frustration at the vast number of black Derby winners, began to voice their disapproval of their involvement by refusing to attend the races, let alone place bets. When the black jockeys disappeared from Churchill Downs, the white racing fans responded by filling the seats once again to cheer on horses ridden by white men. When Marlon St. Julien raced in the year 2000 Kentucky Derby, he broke the 79 year-old hiatus of the black jockey from Churchill Downs.
    "No matter how well you perform there's always somebody of intelligent opinion who thinks it's lousy." - Laurence Olivier

  • #2
    I love the old photos.

    I have an ancient copy of a book called "Thoroughbred Types 1900-1925" (one of my grandmothers used to play the ponies). There are a lot of pictures of horses of that era, many of which are of the horses alone, but often when there's a jockey (or a groom) pictured with the horse, he is African-American.
    "The formula 'Two and two make five' is not without its attractions." --Dostoevsky


    • #3
      Here's an interesting article on how black jockeys were systematically excluded from racing in the early part of the last century:
      Silks, Saddles and Discrimination
      I'm not ignoring the rules. I'm interpreting the rules. Tamal, The Great British Baking Show


      • #4
        I had no idea of this history. Thank you, Mike and pAin't, for sharing those links.
        exploring the relationship between horse and human


        • #5
          A *very* interesting topic, thanks for posting. One of the best books I've read on the subject was Wink about jockey Jimmy Winkfield...
          View my photographs at www.horsephotoguy.zenfolio.com


          • #6
            Originally posted by texang73 View Post
            One of the best books I've read on the subject was Wink about jockey Jimmy Winkfield...
            Have this book and loved it.
            So sad that it's "unknown" history simply because of the color of the jockey's skin.
            You're entitled to your own opinion, not your own facts!


            • #7
              "Wink" is one the best biographies I've ever read. His story is nothing short of amazing. I hope they'll make a movie out of it someday!
              Snobbington Hunt clique - Whoopee Wagon Fieldmaster
              Bostonians, join us at- http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Boston_Equestrian
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              • #8
                I noticed myself watching the derby this year that there were quite a few latino jockeys... Just interesting is all, not nessisarily a social commentary.

                They did'nt get the idea for those little "Lawn Jockey" ornaments that are always an African American from no where (one of my neightbours actually still has one of these).