African Americans in Racing

The accomplishments of African-American horsemen in the early years of the sport are often forgotten, but in the years between the Civil War and the turn of the century, they were very influential. In the first Kentucky Derby Aristides was trained by African-American Ansel Williamson and guided to victory by Oliver Lewis, one of 15 black jockeys in that race. Over all, 15 of the first 28 Kentucky Derbys were won by black jockeys and 5 were trained by black trainers.

Jimmy Winkfield

Jimmy Winkfield

Jimmy Winkfield winner of the Kentucky Derby in 1901 and 1902

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 rumored he even rode for the Czar of Russia. He became fluent in several languages before he retired with over 2300 winners to his credit. Winkfield was finally inducted in the Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 2004 and in 2005 Aqueduct Racetrack in New York City renamed the Best Turn Stakes to the Jimmy Winkfield Stakes, an early prep for the Kentucky Derby.

Isaac Murphy's grave at the Kentucky Horse Park
Isaac Murphy’s grave at the Kentucky Horse Park
Isaac Murphy
Isaac Murphy who won 44% of all his races

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. That record has not been approached by any other jockey since. He was one of the first group of jockeys to be inducted into the Jockey Hall of Fame at the National Museum of Racing when it was started in 1955. 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:

Ed Brown Alonzo Clayton James Perkins Willie Simms
Ed Brown who trained 1877 Kentucky Derby winner Baden-Baden Alonzo Clayton who won the Kentucky Derby at only 15 years of age James Perkins who also won the Derby at only 15 Willie Simms who won the Derby twice and each of the Triple Crown races at least once.
Patrick Husbands
Patrick Husbands has won the Sovereign Award for Champion Jockey in Canada 7 times

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, jockey Marlon St. Julien has been very successful in the Texas and Chicago racing circuits and jockey Patrick Husbands is has been a leading jockey in Canada for several years, winning his 2000th race in 2009. Jockey DeShawn Parker, who mostly rides at Tampa Bay Downs and Mountaineer Park, was ranked first in the US by wins in 2010 and 2011.

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Great Black Jockeys

BOSTON (BASN) — 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.

Isaac-Murphy-jockey-7That record has not been approached by any other jockey since. He was the first jockey to be inducted into the Jockey Hall of Fame at the National Museum of Racing.

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.

Willie-Simms-jockey-8Willie Simms was a superb rider of the late 19th century. He brought winning mounts to the wire 24.8% of the time.Simms was born in 1870 in Augusta, Ga., and began riding at East Coast tracks in 1887.

During his career he rode for the most prominent owners of the era, including Mike and Phil Dwyer, Richard Croker, Pierre Lorillard, August Belmont, and James R. Keene.  Simms won back-to-back Belmont Stakes in 1893-94 aboard Commanche and Henry of Navarre.

He also was a two-time winner of the Kentucky Derby aboard Ben Brush and Plaudit and was the only African-American jockey to win the Preakness, aboard Sly Fox in 1898.

One of Simms’ most dramatic races was a match between Dobbin and Domino in 1893. Simms and Dobbin finished in a dead heat with the previously unbeaten Domino.

Simms found great success riding the New York circuit in the 1890′s. He also briefly rode in England in 1895. Many sources credit Simms with introducing the British to the short stirrup style of riding later popularized by Tod Sloan.

Willie Simms was the nation’s leading jockey in 1894. He was inducted in the Hall of Fame in 1977.

Source: http://blackathlete.net/2010/02/the-great-black-jockeys/

The Kentucky Derby’s Forgotten Jockeys

African American jockeys once dominated the track. But by 1921, they had disappeared from the Kentucky Derby and would not return for nearly eighty years

James Winkfield on Alan a Dale

James Winkfield was a two-time Kentucky Derby winner and raced across Europe after racism kept him from being the best athlete in America’s most popular sport. (Courtesy Kentucky Derby Museum / Kinetic Corporation)

When tens of thousands of fans assemble in Louisville, Kentucky, May 2 for the 135th Kentucky Derby, they will witness a phenomenon somewhat unusual for today’s American sporting events: of some 20 riders, none are African American. Yet in the first Kentucky Derby in 1875, 13 out of 15 jockeys were black. Among the first 28 derby winners, 15 were black. African American jockeys excelled in the sport in the late 1800s. But by 1921, they had disappeared from the Kentucky track and would not return until Marlon St. Julien rode in the 2000 race.

African American jockeys’ dominance in the world of racing is a history nearly forgotten today. Their participation dates back to colonial times, when the British brought their love of horseracing to the New World. Founding Fathers George Washington and Thomas Jefferson frequented the track, and when President Andrew Jackson moved into the White House in 1829, he brought along his best Thoroughbreds and his black jockeys. Because racing was tremendously popular in the South, it is not surprising that the first black jockeys were slaves. They cleaned the stables and handled the grooming and training of some of the country’s most valuable horseflesh. From such responsibility, slaves developed the abilities needed to calm and connect with Thoroughbreds, skills demanded of successful jockeys.

For blacks, racing provided a false sense of freedom. They were allowed to travel the racing circuit, and some even managed their owners’ racing operation. They competed alongside whites. When black riders were cheered to the finish line, the only colors that mattered were the colors of their silk jackets, representing their stables. Horseracing was entertaining for white owners and slaves alike and one of the few ways for slaves to achieve status.

After the Civil War, which had devastated racing in the South, emancipated African American jockeys followed the money to tracks in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. “African Americans had been involved in racing and with horses since the beginning,” says Anne Butler, director of Kentucky State University’s Center for the Study of Kentucky African Americans. “By the time freedom came they were still rooted in the sport.”

The freed riders soon took center stage at the newly organized Kentucky Derby. On opening day, May 17, 1875, Oliver Lewis, a 19-year-old black native Kentuckian, rode Aristides, a chestnut colt trained by a former slave, to a record-setting victory. Two years later William Walker, 17, claimed the race. Isaac Murphy became the first jockey to win three Kentucky Derbys, in 1884, 1890, and 1891, and won an amazing 44 percent of all the races he rode, a record still unmatched. Alonzo “Lonnie” Clayton, at 15 the youngest to win in 1892, was followed by James “Soup” Perkins, who began racing at age 11 and claimed the 1895 Derby. Willie Simms won in 1896 and 1898. Jimmy “Wink” Winkfield, victorious in 1901 and 1902, would be the last African American to win the world-famous race. Murphy, Simms and Winkfield have been inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, New York.

In 2005, Winkfield was also honored with a Congressional House Resolution, a few days before the 131st Derby. Such accolades came long after his death in 1974 at age 91 and decades after racism forced him and other black jockeys off American racetracks.

Despite Wink’s winning more than 160 races in 1901, Goodwin’s Annual Official Guide to the Turf omitted his name. The rising scourge of segregation began seeping into horse racing in the late 1890s. Fanned by the Supreme Court’s 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson ruling that upheld the “separate but equal” doctrine, Jim Crow injustice pervaded every social arena, says Butler.

“White genteel class, remnants from that world, didn’t want to share the bleachers with African American spectators, though blacks continued to work as groomers and trainers,” she says.

  • By Lisa K. Winkler
  • Smithsonian.com, April 24, 2009

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/The-Kentucky-Derbys-Forgotten-Jockeys.html#ixzz2g59zcXPX
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African-Americans were the early superstars of Thoroughbred racing

African-Americans were the early superstars of Thoroughbred racing, dominating the sport from the mid-seventeenth century to the early twentieth century. In the antebellum years, slaves were often responsible for training and caring for their owners’ horses. But as the sport of horse racing began to gain in popularity in the United States from the mid-eighteenth century onward, skilled black horsemen were highly valued as trainers and jockeys. Records indicate that even as early as the late eighteenth century, some slave jockeys actually gained their freedom as a result of their excellent riding abilities.

By the mid-19th century, black jockeys virtually ruled the profession, riding in circuits from Louisiana to New York. In 1875 at the inaugural running of the Kentucky Derby, 13 of the 15 riders were African-Americans. African-American jockey Oliver Lewis rode Aristides to a two-length victory in the first Kentucky Derby. Other notable African-American riders include Isaac Murphy, victorious in 628 races out of 1,412 in which he rode. James Perkins, better known as “Soup,” for his love of soup, began riding in 1891 at age 11 and won the 1895 Derby aboard Halma as a 15-year-old to join fellow African-American jockey Alonzo Clayton as the youngest winning riders of the race. Alonzo “Lonnie” Clayton rode a horse named Redstone in his first race as a jockey in 1890. He is only one of three African-American jockeys to compete in the Preakness and he finished third in 1896. Willie Simms won two Kentucky Derbys: in 1896 aboard Ben Brush and in 1898 with Plaudit. He also was the nation’s leading jockey in 1893 and 1894 and was the first American jockey to win a race with an American horse at an English race course. He is credited with introducing the short stirrup riding style to England in the 1890’s. Jimmy Winkfield won back-to-back Kentucky Derbys in 1901 on His Eminence and 1902 on Alan-A-Dale. He was the last black jockey to win a Kentucky Derby.

Oliver Lewis Isaac Murphy
James "Soup" Perkins Alonzo "Lonnie" Clayton
Willie Simms Jimmy Winkfield

At Belair, African-Americans were an integral part of farm operations. Stallion men, shed foreman and grooms cared for the Woodward thoroughbreds. Charles and Henry Thomas worked for Belair and Charles was Nashua’s handler. Mr. Woodward’s most valued stable employee was Andrew Jackson, a former slave born in Kentucky in the late 1850s. Mr. Woodward hired Andrew in 1900 and it was his keen eye for horses that prompted Mr. Woodward to purchase Captain Hancock, the $60 stud horse, as well as the three $100 mares that essentially launched the Belair Stud. Andrew was the trainer of record for Belair’s first race victory with Aile d’Or at the Marlboro Track in 1909. When Andrew died in 1932, Mr. Woodward erected the tombstone on Andrew’s grave at the Sacred Heart Church cemetery in honor of Jackson.

Andrew Jackson in his later years

Although African-Americans were sought to ride and train race horses, they were not completely free of the racial prejudices that were prevalent in the United States at the time. The most controversial image associated with African-Americans and horse racing is the lawn jockey. Legend has it that General George Washington commissioned a statue in honor of his young black groom, Tom Graves, who held a lantern for Washington’s troops as they crossed the Delaware. Upon Washington’s return from the voyage, he found his groom frozen to death, the reins of troop horses still in his hands.

Lawn jockey

By the time of the Civil War, lawn jockeys dotted landscapes throughout the south and had multiple functions. In some instances they were used as hitching posts for horses. They also suggested that the residents of a property had money. Their most important role was as signals in the Underground Railroad. A lawn jockey holding a green ribbon represented safe passage while a red ribbon symbolized danger.

However, not all lawn jockeys were representative of good taste. Many of the black-faced statues were offensive caricatures of African-Americans, reminders of the virulent racism in the United States.

Belair had its own lawn jockey. Dressed in the Belair silks of white shirt with red polka dots, the figure was once located in the center of the courtyard behind the Stables.

Belair's lawn jockey

Today, the story of African-Americans in horse racing is being unearthed and retold to a new generation of Americans who do not know of the gloried history of America’s first great athletes.

Source: Belair Stable Museum
http://www.eagle1.american.edu/~sm1651a/design/African-Americans.html

African Americans in Racing (Jockey)

African-Americans in Racing

Oliver Lewis
Oliver Lewis rider of the first Kentucky Derby winner Aristides

The accomplishments of African-American horsemen in the early years of the sport are often forgotten, but in the years between the Civil War and the turn of the century, they were very influential. In the first Kentucky Derby Aristides was trained by African-American Ansel Williamson and guided to victory by Oliver Lewis, one of 15 black jockeys in that race. Over all, 15 of the first 28 Kentucky Derbys were won by black jockeys and 5 were trained by black trainers.

Jimmy Winkfield
Jimmy Winkfield winner of the Kentucky Derby in 1901 and 1902

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 rumored he even rode for the Czar of Russia. He became fluent in several languages before he retired with over 2300 winners to his credit. Winkfield was finally inducted in the Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 2004 and in 2005 Aqueduct Racetrack in New York City renamed the Best Turn Stakes to the Jimmy Winkfield Stakes, an early prep for the Kentucky Derby.

Isaac Murphy's grave at the Kentucky Horse Park
Isaac Murphy’s grave at the Kentucky Horse Park
Isaac Murphy
Isaac Murphy who won 44% of all his races

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. That record has not been approached by any other jockey since. He was one of the first group of jockeys to be inducted into the Jockey Hall of Fame at the National Museum of Racing when it was started in 1955. 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:

Ed Brown Alonzo Clayton James Perkins Willie Simms
Ed Brown who trained 1877 Kentucky Derby winner Baden-Baden Alonzo Clayton who won the Kentucky Derby at only 15 years of age James Perkins who also won the Derby at only 15 Willie Simms who won the Derby twice and each of the Triple Crown races at least once.
Patrick Husbands
Patrick Husbands has won the Sovereign Award for Champion Jockey in Canada 7 times

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, jockey Marlon St. Julien has been very successful in the Texas and Chicago racing circuits and jockey Patrick Husbands is has been a leading jockey in Canada for several years, winning his 2000th race in 2009. Jockey DeShawn Parker, who mostly rides at Tampa Bay Downs and Mountaineer Park, was ranked first in the US by wins in 2010 and 2011.

Source: About.com

Isaac Murphy (Jockey)

Millionaire in the Making

Isaac Murphy was the first jockey to win three Kentucky Derbies — in 1884, 1890, 1891 — and the first millionaire black athlete. “They came at a time when blacks were invisible.”

Isaac Murphy

Source: CNN

Isaac Burns MurphyIsaac Murphy was born on April 16, 1861 as Isaac Burns near Frankfort, Kentucky on a farm to parents James Burns and a mother whose name is unknown.  Murphy was the first American jockey elected to Racing’s Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, New York and only one of two black jockeys (Willie Simms is the other) to have received this honor.

Burns’s father, a free black man, was a bricklayer and his mother was a laundrywoman.  During the civil war his father joined the Union Army and died in a Confederate prisoner of war camp.  After his father’s death, Burns and his mother moved to live with her father, Green Murphy, a bell ringer and auction crier, in Lexington, Kentucky.  Isaac Burns changed his last name to Murphy once he started racing horses as a tribute to his grandfather.

After the move to Lexington, Kentucky, Burns’ mother worked at the Richard and Owings Racing Stable.  Isaac Murphy started accompanying his mother to work and he was noticed by a black trainer named Eli Jordon, because of his small size.  The trainer prepared Burns for his first race at age fourteen.  His first winning race was on September 15, 1875 at the Lexington Crab Orchard.  He rode upright and urged his mount on with words and a spur rather than the whip. By the end of 1876, Burns, now racing under the name, Murphy had won eleven races at the Lexington’s Kentucky Association track.  In 1877 he won 19 races and rode in his first Kentucky Derby and received fourth place.  His 1879 win at the Travers Stakes at Saratoga Springs brought him national attention for the first time.

Isaac Murphy’s first Kentucky Derby win came May 27, 1884 at Churchill Downs.  Two more victories would follow in 1890 and 1891.   In 1884, Murphy also won the American Derby in Chicago, Illinois, at the time the most prestigious race in the nation.  He would repeat this feat in 1885, 1886 and 1888.  Throughout his career, Murphy rode 628 winners in his 1,412 mounts, including the three Kentucky Derby winners previously mentioned, four American Derby winners, and five Latonia Derby winners.  Murphy has the best winning average in history to date with better than 34 percent.

During the height of his career Murphy received an average yearly salary of $10,000-20,000 excluding bonuses, making him the highest paid jockey in the United States.  He lived in a mansion in Lexington.  It is believed that Murphy was the first African American to own a racehorse.  He owned several racehorses and invested in real estate as well.

On June 25, 1890, Murphy raced in the most memorable contest of his life.  Matched against a white counterpart, jockey Ed “Snapper” Garrison; the race would settle the debate as to which rider was the better jockey.  In a contest that had definite racial overtones, Murphy was victorious.

Murphy’s popularity soon fell after this race.  In August, 1890, just two month’s after Murphy’s victory, he was suspended for racing while intoxicated after falling off his horse in a race.  In the following years he also ran and won fewer races as he battled both alcohol abuse and weight gain.  In 1895 Murphy was suspended for the second time, because of intoxication. That same year he failed to win a single race and was forced to retirement.  Murphy died three months later from pneumonia.  At the height of his career Issac Burns Murphy was the best jockey of his time and still holds the best winning percentage of jockeys.  The Isaac Murphy Stakes (formerly the American Derby, which Murphy won on four occasions in the 1880s) was initiated in 1997 at Chicago’s Arlington International Racecourse.

Sources:
David Reed, “High Tributes Paid To Murphy,” The Lexington Herald (Lexington, Kentucky), May 5, 1967, p. 13;  Stephen P. Savage, “Isaac Murphy: Black Hero in Nineteenth Century American Sport, 1861-1896,” Canadian Journal of History and Physical Education 10 (1979):15-32; Robert Fikes, Jr, “Issac Murphy”  Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005); Patsi B. Trollinger, Perfect Timing: How Isaac Murphy Became One of the World’s Greatest Jockeys (New York: Viking Press, 2006).
– See more at: http://www.blackpast.org/aah/murphy-isaac-burns-1861-1896#sthash.O7yd7PHa.dpuf