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The Rise, Fall, and Disappearance of Black Horsemen

The first Kentucky Derby, in 1875, was won by Aristides. On his back was a black jockey, Oliver Lewis; the man who trained him, Ansel Williamson, was also black. Five years earlier, Kingfisher had won the Belmont Stakes, ridden by Edward Brown, trained by Raleigh Colston, both men who had been born into slavery. That…

David Dunham Withers

“No man in the country was more widely esteemed by racing men.” David Dunham Withers was born in 1822 in New York City; he and his family lived downtown on Greene Street, now in fashionable Soho. When his parents married, the couple was given a cottage by the bride’s father as a wedding present. According…

View from Saratoga backstretch July 2014

Meet-End Musings on Cultural Memory

Nearly every day at Saratoga, I’d stop somewhere—in the backyard, walking down the clubhouse steps, standing on the second level and looking back out over the trees and the old saddling shed—and I’d marvel. I’d marvel at the beauty of the place, and I’d marvel that day after day, thousands of people came: to watch…

Image ID 100330 William Travers NYPL

Meet Mr. Travers

Last year at Royal Ascot, Estimate, a horse owned by Queen Elizabeth II, won the Gold Cup in its 207th running. As the Queen traditionally presents the trophy to the winning owner, her victory presented something of a problem, solved when her son Prince Andrew stepped in to do the honors. In August of 1864,…