African American jockeys dominated Thoroughbred racing through the early 20th century. Their work in the industry brought many innovations and firsts to the sport.
Oliver Lewis: Oliver Lewis won the very first Kentucky Derby in 1875 aboard Aristides. In addition to this famous first, Lewis became an analyzer of racing data. His work became very influential in the forming of modern race charts.
Isaac Murphy: Isaac Murphy is one of the greatest jockeys in the history of Thoroughbred racing. He won the Kentucky Derby three times: 1884, 1890 and 1891. Murphy rode in the traditional, upright English style at a time when most American jockeys rode in the more common seated position.
William Walker: William Walker won the Kentucky Derby in 1877 aboard Baden-Baden. Walker’s most famous race at Churchill Downs came in 1878 when he piloted Ten Broeck to a win over mare Mollie McCarthy in a famous match race. Walker, considered an expert in Thoroughbred breeding and bloodlines, eventually became an advisor to John E. Madden, breeder of five Kentucky Derby winners.
Willie Simms: Willie Simms won the Kentucky Derby twice (1896 and 1898). Simms is also the first jockey to win a race with an American horse at an English race course and is credited with introducing the short stirrup riding style to England.
-Chris Goodlett, Curator of Collections