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Dale Edwyna Smith

African Americans dominated the sport of Thoroughbred horseracing as trainers and jockeys in the sport's formative years. Prior to the American Revolution, horseracing most often involved two horses racing on quarter-mile paths; after the Revolution, as many as twenty horses might race on tracks of up to twenty miles. Slaves competed in colonial competitions, and Austin Curtis was freed after the Revolution for service to his country, including keeping American horses out of the hands of the British cavalry.

Most of the African Americans in the early years of horseracing were slaves some of them possessed equestrian skills from West African horse tribes but they led extraordinary lives as professional athletes and competed with white counterparts as early as the colonial era for rewards that included cash payments Although black slaves were offered as bets between gentlemen racehorse owners winning slave jockeys were permitted to travel across state lines which ...


Pellom McDaniels

jockey. Isaac Murphy was born Isaac Burns within the converging contexts of slavery and the beginning of the American Civil War on David Tanner's Pleasant Green Hill Farm in Clark County, Kentucky. Murphy's mother, America, an enslaved domestic servant, and his father, Jerry Burns, an enslaved laborer who would later become a Union soldier and die of camp fever at Camp Nelson, Kentucky, left no record of an official marriage or narrative of their lives together. After Emancipation, Murphy's mother migrated with her son and daughter to the growing urban center of Lexington, Kentucky, where they began a new life as freedmen.

Murphy's adherence to Victorian definitions of morality, self-control, and integrity—endorsed by his mother and reinforced by his community—would shape his definition of manhood and masculinity, which would be the foundation of his future success as a jockey and as a man.

In 1874 Murphy s mother apprenticed ...


Robert Fikes

Isaac Murphy was born Isaac Burns on a farm near Frankfort, Kentucky, the son of James Burns, a bricklayer, and a mother (name unknown) who worked as a laundrywoman. During the Civil War his father, a free black, joined the Union army and died in a Confederate prisoner-of-war camp. Upon the death of his father, his widowed mother moved with her family to Lexington, Kentucky, to live with her father, Green Murphy, a bell ringer and auction crier. Accompanying his mother to work at the Richard and Owings Racing Stable, the diminutive Isaac was noticed by the black trainer Eli Jordan, who had him suited up for his first race at age fourteen. His first winning race was aboard the two-year-old filly Glentina on September 15, 1875 at the Lexington Crab Orchard Standing five feet tall and weighing only seventy four pounds Murphy had by the ...


Steven P. Savage

William Simms (better known as Willie) was born in Augusta, Georgia, the son of former slaves. Enticed by racing silks as a boy, he ran away from home to become a jockey. He worked for C. H. Pettingill's stable in New York for two years, until trainer Con Leighton “discovered” him riding in Clifton, New Jersey, in 1887.

For Simms's first important race, Leighton assigned him to ride the two-year-old Banquet, a 20-1 underdog, in the 1889 Expectation Stakes. Banquet defeated both the favorite, Bellisarius, ridden by Edward “Snapper” Garrison, and Banquet's preferred stablemate, Chaos. Later, at Monmouth Park in New Jersey, Simms guided Chaos, now a 30-1 underdog, to victory over favored Banquet. Freelancing in 1891, Simms enjoyed great success at Saratoga. In 1892P. J. Dwyer hired Simms who won the Champion Stakes aboard Lamplighter After signing with the Rancocas Stable later ...


Kelly M. Jordan

jockey and trainer, was born in Chilesburg, Kentucky, the youngest of seventeen children in a family of sharecroppers. He first worked at the racetrack shining shoes and made his way to stable hand, then exercise rider, and finally jockey. At the age of sixteen he was riding in races. Nicknamed “Wink,” he secured a place in racing history by age twenty-two for winning the Kentucky Derby back-to-back: in 1901 on His Eminence and in 1902 on Alan-A-Dale. During his career he won an amazing twenty-six hundred races. He also was a talented horse trainer in his later years.

In 1904 Winkfield fled the United States rumor had it that he had a falling out with a racehorse owner and raced in Russia There he continued his winning career taking the Russian and Moscow derbies more than once He scored victories in other races in Germany Russia and Poland ...