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The Kentucky Derby’s Forgotten Black Jockeys – History

The Kentucky Derby’s Forgotten Black Jockeys – History When St. Croix native Kevin Krigger leads Goldencents into the starting gate for the 139th Kentucky Derby, he will become only the second black jockey in the last 92 years to ride in the Run for the Roses. Although African-American jockeys may be a rarity now, they dominated the winner’s circle in the race’s first three decades.

Churchill Downs, Belmont States, Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, Triple Crown, African American Jockey, Oliver Lewis, KOLUMN Magazine, KOLUMN


On May 17, 1875, thousands of eager horse racing fans poured through the gates of Churchill Downs to get their first looks at Louisville’s sparkling new racetrack and cheer on the thoroughbreds in the featured race, the inaugural Kentucky Derby. Finely dressed gentlemen and ladies adorned in bright colors thronged the grandstand and hundreds of carriages filled the infield as the horses toed the line for the day’s second race. At the tap of a drum, fifteen horses thundered down the track. As excited shouts echoed across the oval, jockey Oliver Lewis spurred on his chestnut colt Aristides to a one-length victory in the fastest time ever recorded by a three-year-old horse.

Churchill Downs, Belmont States, Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, Triple Crown, African American Jockey, Oliver Lewis, KOLUMN Magazine, KOLUMN

Churchill Downs, Belmont States, Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, Triple Crown, African American Jockey, Oliver Lewis, KOLUMN Magazine, KOLUMN

Churchill Downs, Belmont States, Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, Triple Crown, African American Jockey, Oliver Lewis, KOLUMN Magazine, KOLUMN

Churchill Downs, Belmont States, Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, Triple Crown, African American Jockey, Oliver Lewis, KOLUMN Magazine, KOLUMN

See Also
Chicago Deputy Chief, Dion Boyd, Suicide, KOLUMN Magazine, KOLUMN, KINDR'D Magazine, KINDR'D, Willoughby Avenue, Wriit,

Churchill Downs, Belmont States, Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, Triple Crown, African American Jockey, Oliver Lewis, KOLUMN Magazine, KOLUMNPhoto | Andy Lyons/Getty Images

That Lewis was a black man in the sport of horse racing was of little note. In fact, 13 of the 15 riders in that first Kentucky Derby were African-Americans. In the years following the Civil War, black jockeys dominated horse racing at a time when it was America’s most popular sport. African-American riders were the first black sports superstars in the United States, and they won 15 of the first 28 runnings of the Kentucky Derby.


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