Black History Month Event on Black Jockeys Planned

In conjunction with Black History Month, William Woods University is hosting an event about black jockeys and trainers in the Kentucky Derby.


A movie will be shown in the Library Auditorium Tuesday, Feb. 15, and Wednesday, Feb. 16, at 12:10 p.m. Discussion will be led by Laura Ward, assistant professor of equestrian studies. The event is free and open to the public.


In the early days, black riders and trainers dominated the Kentucky Derby. This profile of some of the great black jockeys, trainers and owners explores the reasons behind the virtual disappearance of black jockeys from horse racing. It also explores the resurgence of blacks in the racing industry.


Fourteen of the 15 horses that ran in the first Kentucky Derby May 17, 1875, were ridden by black jockeys. The winner, a horse named Aristides, was ridden by the black jockey Oliver Lewis. Following Lewis’ triumph, blacks dominated the race for years, taking 15 of the first 28 derbies between 1875 and 1902. In those early years, “Negro” jockeys rode hard and fast into countless winner’s circles and brought the Kentucky Derby from a little-known racing event into a world-renowned classic.


While black riders were shaping the Kentucky Derby from the saddle, black trainers were also carving a niche in horse racing history. In 1877, when Billy Walker rode Baden-Baden to victory, it marked the first win for a black rider-trainer duo.


Isaac Murphy’s 1902 victory marked the last for a black rider. Suddenly, in the first sport where black men were crowned king, their reign came to an abrupt end. This program goes into detail of the trials and tribulations that these early jockeys endured. It also explores the reasons surrounding the “sudden and complete” disappearance of blacks from the limelight of this amazing sport.


For further information, contact Laura Ward at