Black jockeys in the Kentucky Derby

April 30, 2013

If Kevin Krigger wins the Kentucky Derby aboard Goldencents, he will be the first black jockey to accomplish the feat since 1902.

Although there are relatively few black jockeys in U.S. racing today, African-Americans riders “dominated America’s first professional sport for colonial times to the Civil War,” author Ed Hotaling wrote in “Wink,” a biography of rider Jimmy Winkfield. Many were slaves on southern plantations that had racing stables.

After the Civil War, many black jockeys made their base in the border state of Kentucky. They won 15 of the first 28 runnings of the Derby, and three of them—Winkfield, Isaac Murphy and Willie Simms—are enshrined in the Racing Hall of Fame.

Krigger is a native of St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. He came to the U.S. as a teenager in 2001 and rode in Ohio, Washington and northern California before trying to establish himself on the tough southern California circuit. He got his big break when trainer Doug O’Neill gave him the mount on Goldencents, who made Krigger the first black rider ever to win the Santa Anita Derby.

Andrew Beyer has been The Washington Post’s horse racing columnist since 1978 and is considered one of the leading experts on the subject.
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