Shining a spotlight on notable Black jockeys

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From the beginnings of the sport in the United States, Black horsemen have made significant contributions to racing. Black jockeys dominated the winner’s circle in racing’s first three decades. They were the first Black superstar athletes in the United States and won 15 of the first 28 runnings of the Kentucky Derby. In fact, 13 of 15 jockeys for the inaugural Kentucky Derby in 1875 were Black.

Below are four legendary Black jockeys from horse racing history that you need to know about:

Oliver Lewis: On May 17, 1875, 19-year-old Lewis won the very first Kentucky Derby on Aristides for Black trainer Ansel Williamson. Lewis and Aristides went on to finish second in the Belmont Stakes. Lewis, a native of Lexington, went on to become a bookmaker after his riding career.

Isaac Burns Murphy: Murphy won the Kentucky Derby three times in 1884, 1890, and 1891 and in doing so became the richest American athlete. During his peak years, Murphy reportedly earned $15,000 to $20,000 annually when the average yearly income for a family of four was $1,200. Murphy, a native of Clark County in Central Kentucky who began his riding career at age 14, also owned and trained horses. He is buried at the Kentucky Horse Park across from Man O’ War. Murphy was among the first group of jockeys inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in its inaugural year of 1955.

James Winkfield: Winkfield became the second jockey to win Kentucky Derbys back to back, in 1901 and 1902. Winkfield took his talents overseas in the following years, becoming a leading jockey in Russia and also competing in several other European countries. He later bred and trained racehorses in France. Winkfield, the last Black jockey to win the Kentucky Derby, was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in 2004.

Willie Simms: In the 1890s, Simms became the first (and only) Black jockey to win all the American Triple Crown races, winning the Kentucky Derby (in 1896 and 1898), Preakness (1898), and Belmont Stakes (1893 and 1894) decades before the concept of the Triple Crown took hold. In 1895, the Augusta, Ga. native was invited to race in England, where he became the first jockey to win a race on an American horse in that country. Simms won the 1896 Kentucky Derby in its first running as a 1 ¼-mile race. He was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in 1977.

Taiba wins $1 million Pennsylvania Derby for Baffert

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BENSALEM, Pa. – Taiba won the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby by three lengths for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.

Ridden by Mike Smith, Taiba ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.67 and paid $4.80, $3 and $2.60.

It was Baffert’s fourth win in the Grade 1 event at Parx Racing. He also won in 2014, 2017 and 2018. Smith won the race for the third time, all aboard Baffert horses.

Zandon returned $3.80 and $2.60. Cyberknife was another 3 3/4 lengths back in third and paid $3 to show.

Taiba was coming off a second-place finish in the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth in July. The colt was 12th in the Kentucky Derby under Tim Yakteen, who took over training him while Baffert was serving a 90-day suspension.

“He had a little bit of a rough trip in the Haskell, but we had some time to get him ready for this one,” Baffert said from his base in California. “He proved today he is a good horse. He is getting better and better.”

Baffert Taiba will be pointed toward the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic in November. The colt has three wins in five starts this year.

Kentucky Derby modifies qualifying, elevates prep races

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Churchill Downs has modified paths to the Kentucky Derby and Oaks, awarding points to the top five finishers in qualifying races and increasing significance for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and late prep season events.

Most Derby prep races during the qualifying series for 3-year-olds will award points on a 10-4-3-2-1 sliding scale after using a 10-4-2-1 system since 2013. The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, run during the season-ending championships on Nov. 4 at Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky, will increase points from 20-8-4-2 to 30-12-9-6-3 to differentiate the Grade I event from others during prep season.

Select prep races for the 20-horse Derby field have elevated points from a 10-4-2-1 scale to 20-8-6-4-2 to increase their importance and motivate hopefuls to begin their 3-year-old campaigns earlier in the season, track officials stated in a release.

“We believe these modifications adhere to and amplify our goal of assembling the finest group of 3-year-olds in the starting gate for a race at the classic distance of 1\ miles on the first Saturday in May,” Churchill Downs vice president/general manager Mike Ziegler said.

The 149th Kentucky Derby and Oaks for fillies will be held on May 5-6, 2023. Derby qualifying season begins with Saturday’s $300,000, Grade III Iroquois for 2-year-olds at Churchill Downs.

The point changes apply to Oaks qualifiers.

Elevated Derby preps include the Lecomte at Fair Grounds in Louisiana; Southwest at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas; Withers at Aqueduct in New York; Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park in Florida; Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita in California; Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs; and John Battaglia Memorial at Turfway Park in Kentucky.