Maryland Equine History The Changing Role of African American Jockeys

By Olivia Wood, Equiery Intern Jockeys are some of the fittest professional

athletes around and they earn millions of dollars for the owners they ride for. Top jockeys today earn several million dollars a year. For much of American racing, jockeys have been white, and male. In the early years of racing, however, Af- rican American jockeys dominated the sport. Nevertheless, their contributions are not widely known outside of the racing industry. In the first Kentucky Derby (1875), for

example, 13 of the 15 jockeys were Afri- can American and out of the first 28 run- nings of the Derby, 15 were won by African Americans. Tese first professional African American athletes included Isaac Burns Murphy, who many in the industry consider one of the greatest American Toroughbred jockeys of all time. Murphy earned 628 wins from the 1870s through early 1890s and logged 37 major racing wins during his ca- reer, including winning the Kentucky Derby three times (1884, 1890 and 1891). Only two African American jockeys

have won the Preakness Stakes. Te first was George “Spider” Anderson, who rode Buddhist to victory on May 10, 1889. Bud- dhist was owned Samuel S. Brown, the heir to a Pennsylvania coal mining business. When Spider Anderson got to the track the morning of the race, Buddhist was the only entry on the card. Later that day, however, Governor Oden Bowie sent his colt to the track to prevent An- derson from winning in a walkover. Anderson and Buddhist won anyway with the $1,000 purse going to Buddhist’s owner, S. S. Brown. A native of Baltimore, Anderson rode in his first race in 1883, when he was just 12 years

old. Within three years, T.B. Davis and Frank Hall hired him to ride horses they had stabled at the Ivy City Colony in Maryland. He went on to ride for such prominent owners as Au- gust Belmont, D.D. Withers, William L. Scott, Bryon McClelland and William “Bill” Daly. Anderson also crossed over into the Steeple- chase racing scene, riding such horses as Bess, Councellor Howe and Sir Vassar to wins from

stirrup style, which was relatively new at the time and gave riders their distinctive, crouch- ing posture. In addition to the 1898 Preakness Stakes, Simms won the Kentucky Derby twice (1896 and 1898) and the Belmont Stakes twice (1893 and 1894), as well as many other races. He was named Champion Jockey in the United States for 1893 and 1894, and was inducted in to the US Racing Hall of Fame in 1977. Te dominance of African American

jockeys in the early post-Civil War era is unsurprising. African Americans had been forced into agricultural labor for centu- ries, and as a result, many of the post-Civil War generation had substantial experience handling horses and other livestock. In ad- dition, hired stable workers were often Af- rican American, and these men had deep re- lationships with the horses under their care. Riding in races was just one of many eques- trian related professions in which some post-Civil War African Americans excelled. After Reconstruction, however, white

Only two African American jockeys have won the Preakness Stakes: George “Spider” Anderson (left) in 1889 and Willie Simms in 1898 (right).

1889 to 1897. After retiring as a jockey, An- derson stayed with the sport as a co-owner in several racehorses. Te second African American jockey to win

the Preakness was Willie Simms in 1898. He rode Sly Fox, a Maryland-bred owned by Charles F. Dwyer, a trainer who hailed from a family of Brooklyn butchers-turned-racehorse owners. Simms was born in Augusta, GA, and began

a career as a jockey in 1887. He was one of the first jockeys to find success riding in the short-

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Americans began pushing African Ameri- can jockeys out of racing, and did so quite successfully. In 2013, only four percent of US jockeys were African American and to-

day, that number is just a handful. Tis month, Kendrick Carmouche plans to

ride in this year’s Kentucky Derby, making him the first African American jockey to ride in the race since 2013, when Kevin Krigger finished 17th riding Goldencents. Carmouche, who be- gan riding races in 2000 at the age of 16, is slat- ed to ride Bourbonic (owned by Calumet Farm and trained by Todd Pletcher), in the Derby.

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Munsey’s Magazine 1900


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