The 148th Kentucky Derby took place at Churchill Downs in Louisville on Saturday, when colt Rich Strike prevailed over 80-1 odds for an upset victory.
However, the day before was ladies day at Churchill Downs, and during the Kentucky Oaks race for top 3-year-old fillies a group of Black women was basking in the glow of the history they made a few weeks earlier when their horse, Seven Scents, won the $130,000 Scarteen Purse at Keeneland.
As we honor the ladies on this Oaks Day, hear from one of these owners who is making history. She says women can and should leave their mark on the horse racing industry and sport @WKYT WKYT pic.twitter.com/dGjTVXkhsk
— Shelby Lofton (@ShelbyWKYT) May 6, 2022
The five Black women syndicate who own Living The Dream Stables, took their horse Seven Scents on April 24, a 3-1 favorite, and outfought Oceanic, holding off a late charge from Bullseye Beauty to score a neck victory. The event featured 4-year-olds and up on Military Day, according to Keeneland.
The Owners: Black Women In Horse Racing
“We’re not only owners, we’re winners,” horse owner Dr. Tiffany Day said on Friday to local CBS affiliate WKYT. “We’re showing up at the tracks, we’re representing and we’re taking home prizes,” horse owner Dr. Tiffany Daniels said.
Keeneland is the world’s largest and most prominent Thoroughbred auction house and hosts world-class racing twice annually during its boutique spring and fall meetings, according to their website.
Along with Churchill Downs, it is not a place where Black ownership is commonplace although Black people have had a tradition of excellence in horse racing on the highest levels.
A couple of weeks ago, Seven Scents (8) won his race at Keeneland. He’s owned by 5 African American women. It was the first time a horse syndicate made up of Black women won a race at the track.
They want minority representation to become more common in the industry. @WKYT pic.twitter.com/RTA8iO1oQM
— Shelby Lofton (@ShelbyWKYT) May 6, 2022
The Real Horse Racing Roots
“The first jockey to win the Kentucky Derby was an African American male. We’re in 2022 right now and we don’t see a lot of us,” horse owner Coya Robinson said to WKYT.
The inaugural year of the Kentucky Derby in 1875 saw 13 out of 15 Black jockeys competing in the sport. Black jockey Oliver Lewis won the first Derby on horse Aristides and he was trained by Ed Brown one of the most accomplished horsemen in the history of the sport.
There is currently the Ed Brown Society that explores the vast history of African-Americans in the industry and provides opportunities for underserved communities.
Additionally, Black horsemen and jockeys went on to win 15 of the Derby’s first 28 races, according to the Kentucky Derby Museum.
— Keeneland Racing (@keenelandracing) April 24, 2022
During the Jim Crow era, Black jockeys and horsemen were pushed out from competing in races, according to an NPR interview with Chris Goodlett, director of curatorial and educational affairs at the Kentucky Derby Museum.
The subsequent violence and racial disrcimination followed along with the effectual erasure of their contributions being in the forefront of horse racing history.
“At times, physical violence by white jockeys [was used] against their African American counterparts in racing,” said Goodlett. “In the late 19th and early 20th century, many states were making it very difficult, if not even impossible, for African American jockeys to get licenses to ride at the turn of the 20th century.”
— Governor Andy Beshear (@GovAndyBeshear) May 4, 2022
A Deeper History
The legacy of Black women especially in horse racing has been buried.
“Us specifically, we’re following in the footsteps of Eliza Carpenter, who was a slave who became a horse owner and an actual jockey,” Dr. Tiffany Daniels said.
Carpenter was born enslaved and stands out in history as the first Black horse racer in early Oklahoma history. She reportedly became one of the few Black stable owners in the West, staking the claim for her land when the Cherokee Outlet was opened for claimants.
The stories of her riding buggies attached to ponies mimicking Roman chariots are nothing short of legendary.
A Firm Legacy
“It was a chance for me to live a legacy for my four daughters, for my goddaughters, so I thought it was a good opportunity as a woman,” said Robinson.
With Living The Dream stables and organizations like the Lexington, Kentucky-based Ed Brown Society, which “creates opportunities for young people of color to gain industry exposure,” the hidden history of the Black experience in horse racing is finally being exposed.