Did you know that an African-American jockey won the first Kentucky Derby? Oliver Lewis was the jockey and he won on “Aristides.” In fact, African-American jockeys dominated the sport of thoroughbred horse racing for over 25 years.
As we prepare for the 139th running of the Kentucky Derby, lets take a moment to remember the unsung heroes of thoroughbred horse racing and the contributions they made to the sport.
Listed below are the black jockeys who won the Kentucky Derby, the horses they rode, and the year they won.
1875 Oliver Lewis on “Aristides”
1877 William Walker on “Baden Baden”
1880 George Lewis on “Fonso”
1882 Babe Hurd on “Apollo”
1884 Isaac Murphy on “Buchanan”
1885 Enoch Henderson on “Joe Cotton”
1887 Isaac Lewis on “Montrose”
1890 Isaac Murphy on “Riley”
1891 Isaac Murphy on “Kingman”
1892 Alfie Clayton on “Azra”
1895 J. (Soup) Perkins on “Haima”
1896 Willie Sims on “Ben Brush”
1898 Willie Sims on “Plaudit”
1901 Jimmy Winkfield on “His Eminence”
1902 Jimmy Winkfield on “Alan-a-Dale”
Although these jockeys made nothing like the $2 million guaranteed purse offered in the 139th Kentucky Derby, some of them made a very good living plying their trade. When Isaac Murphy died in 1896, his estate was valued at $50,000.
African-American jockeys travelled the elite racing circuit in the 1800’s. However, because of injuries, illness, and lack of proper care, only a few became stars.
By the turn of the century, the sport began to change. Growing racial tension between black and white jockeys began to erupt on and off the track. The time soon arrived when black jockeys were no longer welcome on the track. The days of the great black jockeys were over, never to return.
Today we salute the African-American winners of the Kentucky Derby and their place in history.