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Horse Racing

Winkfield, Jimmy (1882-1974)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain
Jimmy Winkfield, born on April 12, 1882, became famous as an early 20th Century horse jockey.  Winkfield, the youngest of 17 children, was born in Chilesburg, Kentucky, a town just outside of Lexington.  As a child, he had a routine that included performing chores on the farm where his father was a sharecropper and overseeing the thoroughbred parades down the country roads. He and his family moved to Cincinnati in 1894.


On August 10, 1898, Winkfield rode his first race. Aboard Jockey Joe at Chicago's Hawthorne Racetrack, he raced his horse out of the gate and rode across the path of the three inside horses, in an effort to get to the rail. This aggressive behavior did not go over well with racetrack officials and he earned a one year suspension.  Winkfield learned from his mistake and on September 18, 1899, won his first race.  Six months later he rode for the first time in the Kentucky Derby.

In 1901, at 19, Winkfield captured his first Kentucky Derby title astride a horse named Eminence. He went on to win 161 races that year, including key victories in the Latonia Derby on Hernando and Tennessee Derby where he rode Royal Victor. While these were spectacular accomplishments, he returned to the Kentucky Derby in 1902 and won again in the most important race of his career.  

Sources: 
Ed Hotaling, Wink: the Incredible Life and Epic Journey of Jimmy Winkfield (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2004); Neil Schmidt, “Black Jockey’s journey spanned different worlds.” The Cincinnati Enquirer. April 29, 2002.
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
East Tennessee State University

Murphy, Isaac Burns (1861-1896)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Isaac Murphy was born on April 16, 1861 as Isaac Burns near Frankfort, Kentucky on a farm to parents James Burns and a mother whose name is unknown.  Murphy was the first American jockey elected to Racing’s Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, New York and only one of two black jockeys (Willie Simms is the other) to have received this honor.

Burns’s father, a free black man, was a bricklayer and his mother was a laundrywoman.  During the civil war his father joined the Union Army and died in a Confederate prisoner of war camp.  After his father’s death, Burns and his mother moved to live with her father, Green Murphy, a bell ringer and auction crier, in Lexington, Kentucky.  Isaac Burns changed his last name to Murphy once he started racing horses as a tribute to his grandfather.

Sources: 
David Reed, “High Tributes Paid To Murphy,” The Lexington Herald (Lexington, Kentucky), May 5, 1967, p. 13;  Stephen P. Savage, “Isaac Murphy: Black Hero in Nineteenth Century American Sport, 1861-1896,” Canadian Journal of History and Physical Education 10 (1979):15-32; Robert Fikes, Jr, “Issac Murphy”  Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005); Patsi B. Trollinger, Perfect Timing: How Isaac Murphy Became One of the World's Greatest Jockeys (New York: Viking Press, 2006).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Lee, Canada (1907-1952)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History
Photograph by Carl Van Vechten,
courtesy of The Van Vechten Trust
Canada Lee (the adopted name of Lionel Cornelius Canegata) was a noted 20th Century jockey, boxer, and actor.  Born on May 3, 1907 in New York City’s San Juan Hill district, he attended Public School 5 in Harlem. Canegata began his musical education at the age of seven, studying violin with the composer J. Rosamond Johnson. At the age of fourteen he ran away to the Saratoga Race Track in upstate New York to become a jockey. After two years of jockeying he became a horse exerciser for prominent racehorse owners.

In 1923 Canegata moved to Harlem and became an amateur prize fighter, entering the ring with manager Jim Buckley. Over the next three years he emerged the victor in 90 of 100 fights and won the Metropolitan Inter-City and Junior National Championships.  Then he went on and won the national amateur lightweight title. In 1926 he turned professional, changed his name to Canada Lee, and by 1930 he was a leading contender for the welterweight championship. Lee fought in over 200 fights as a professional boxer, only losing 25.  In 1933 a detached retina ended his boxing career and he returned to music.
Sources: 
Rayford W. Logan and Michael R. Winston, eds., Dictionary of American Negro Biography (New York: W. W. Norton, 1982).
Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington

Anderson, George B. (? --?)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

George B. “Spider” Anderson is considered one of the greatest African American jockeys in horse racing history.  There are no details available on George Anderson's early life, not even the place or date of his birth.

Anderson achieved his greatest accomplishment by being the first African American jockey to win the Preakness Stakes held at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland.  The Preakness Stakes is the 2nd stage of the Triple Crown series, between the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes in New York.

On May 10, 1889, the day of the race, Anderson struck one of his coaches, James Cook, across the head with a whip.  The reason for this altercation between the two remains unknown.  There is however speculation that because the 1889 Preakness Stakes only consisted of two horses; Buddhist, rode by Anderson, and Japhet, owned by former Maryland Governor Oden Bowie, there was tension between Cook, who was a friend of Governor Bowie, and Anderson.  There may have been words exchanged before the race which led to Anderson's attack.  Despite the altercation, Anderson was allowed to participate in the Preakness Stakes before receiving any punishment for his assault on Cook by authorities.

Anderson won the race riding Buddhist and easily beating Japhet.  Anderson finished the race with an astonishing time of 2:17.50 and became the 17th winner of the Preakness Stakes.

In 1891, Anderson had two other significant victories to his career, the Alabama Stakes at the Saratoga Race Course in Upstate New York and the Philip H. Iselin Handicap at the Monmouth Race Course in New Jersey.

Sources: 

Edward Hotaling, The Great Black Jockeys: The Lives and Times of the Men Who Dominated America's First National Sport (Rocklin, California: Forum, 1999); http://www.jimcrowhistory.org/scripts/jimcrow/sports.cgi?sport=Horseraci... Glenn C., Smith, "George "Spider" Anderson: First Black Jockey to Win the Preakness." Los Angeles Sentinel. 2000. HighBeam Research., http://www.highbeam.com.

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle

Clayton, Alonzo (1876–1917)

Vignette Type: 
People
History Type: 
African American History

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Alonzo “Lonnie” Clayton, who reached stardom at the age of 15 when he became the youngest rider to win the Kentucky Derby, was born on March 27, 1876 in Kansas City, Missouri to Robert and Evaline Clayton.  

Alonzo Clayton moved with his parents and eight siblings to North Little Rock, Arkansas at the age of 10.  His father, Robert Clayton was a carpenter while his mother, Evaline Clayton stayed at home with the children.  In North Little Rock, Alonzo attended school and worked as a hotel boy and a shoeshine boy to help support his family.

At the age of 12, Clayton started his riding career when he ran away from home to follow his brothers’ footsteps as a jockey.  He landed a job with Lucky Baldwin’s Stable in Chicago as an exercise boy.  One year later, at 13, he was riding and competing in races on the East coast.  At 14, he raced in New York City at Morris Park and in the Jerome Stakes where he recorded his first win as a rider in a major race.  

On May 11, 1892, Clayton rode in and won the Kentucky Derby where he recorded a time of 2:41.50.  Riding Azra, he also set a record as the youngest rider to win the prestigious race.  

Throughout Clayton’s remarkable career, he won other major races including the Champagne Stakes (1891), Jerome Handicap (1891), Clark Handicap (1892, 1897), Travers Stakes (1892), Monmouth Handicap (1893), Kentucky Oaks (1894, 1895) and the Arkansas Derby (1895).

Sources: 

Cary Bradburn, "Alonzo "Lonnie" Clayton (1876-1917)" The Encyclopedia
of Arkansas History & Culture
,
http://www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net/encyclopedia/entry-detail.aspx?ent...
Edward Hotaling, The Great Black Jockeys (Rocklin, California: Forum
Publishing, 1999).

Contributor: 
Affiliation: 
University of Washington, Seattle
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