African-American horsemen played a vital role in shaping early American turf history, and the Kentucky Derby. The history of the Kentucky Derby and African-American horsemen are intertwined. Fourteen of the fifteen riders in the first Derby were African-American, while African-American reinsmen won 15 of the Derby's first 28 runnings.
Oliver Lewis guided H.P. McGrath's Aristides to a two-length victory in the inaugural Kentucky Derby in 1875.
William Walker won aboard Baden-Baden in 1877 and rode successfully for 20 years. After retiring, Walker became a trainer and was considered an expert in Thoroughbred breeding and bloodlines.
Erskine Henderson captured the 11th Derby in 1885 with a fine ride aboard Joe Cotton.
George Jarret Lewis won over a five-horse field in 1880 aboard Fonso on a track listed as "very dusty".
Babe Hurd guided Apollo to a rousing half-length finish in the 1882 Derby, overcoming the favorite Runnymede a few jumps from the wire.
Isaac Murphy, considered one of the greatest race riders in American history, was the first rider to win three Derbys, aboard Buchanan in 1884, Riley in 1890 and Kingman in 1891. He is the only jockey to win the Derby, Oaks and Clark Handicap in the same race meeting (1884) and the first to win two Derby crowns in a row. Murphy won 44 percent of all races he rode (no rider since has come close to that mark), and was the first rider voted into the Jockey Hall of Fame at the National Museum of Racing.
Isaac Lewis, aboard Montrose in 1887, took the lead in the first quarter-mile and won coasting by two lengths.
Alonzo Clayton, aboard Azra in 1892, made up six lengths on the front-running Huron to win by a nose in the three-horse field. Clayton, at 15, became the youngest rider to win the Derby.
James "Soup" Perkins guided the favorite Halma to a wire-to-wire victory in 1895. Perkins, who was 15, joined Clayton as the youngest jockey to win the Derby.
Willie Simms won two Derbys in only two attempts, with Ben Brush, 1896, and Plaudit, 1898. The native of Augusta, Georgia, is the only African American to win the Preakness, guiding Sly Fox to victory in 1898. He rode in England where he introduced the short stirrup riding style later popularized by Tod Sloane.
James Winkfield, who in his brief, four-year American racing stint never finished worse than third with any of his four Derby mounts, had back-to-back wins aboard His Eminence in 1901 and Alan-a- Dale in 1902. Winkfield shares that successive victory distinction with just three other jockeys (Isaac Murphy, Ron Turcotte and Eddie Delahoussaye.) His colorful career began with a one-year suspension for causing a four-horse pile-up on his first-ever mount. In his third full year ofriding, in 1901, Winkfield captured 161 races and in 1903 he headed for Russia where legend has it that he rode for the czar. He rode throughout the European continent and became fluent in several languages. It is estimated that he rode 2,300 winners before he retired at age 48.
Vista Stable (Berry Gordy), (1993 Powis Castle, 8th); Oaktown Stable, (Stanley "Hammer" Burrell and family), (1992 Dance Floor, 3rd); James Cottrell, (1988 Jim's Orbit, 10th); Henry Greene, (1981 Partez, 3rd); Eddie Anderson, (1943 Burnt Cork, 10th); Raleigh Colston, (1911 Colston, 3rd); Ed Brown, (1896 Ulysses, 8th); Dudley Allen, (1891 Kingman, 1st).
Hank Allen, (1989 Northern Wolf, 6th); Edison "Ned" Gaines, (1951 King Clover, 13th); Marshall Lilly, (1934 Spy Hill, 6th); Raymond White, (1932 Crystal Prince, 12th; 1944 American Eagle, 16th); Will Perkins (1915 Tetan, 14th; Booker Bill, 16th; 1921 Uncle Veto, 8th; 1922 John Finn, 3rd; 1925 Son of John, 3rd; Step Along, 5th;); William H. Buckner, (1914 Old Ben, 5th; 1928 Bar None, 12th; 1928 Oscillation, 13th); C. Banks, (1913 Ten Point, 2nd); Dudley Allen, (1891 Kingman, 1st); Alex Perry, (1885 Joe Cotton, 1st); William Bird, (1884 Buchanan, 1st); Ed Brown, (1877 Baden-Baden, 1st; 1896 Ulysses, 8th); Ansel "Andy" Anderson, (1875 Aristides, 1st).