Winkfield Stakes One of Few Reminders of Black Jockeys’ Role in Racing History

Only turf historians, or perhaps those who heard stories told by their grandfathers, would have recognized Winkfield’s name in the United States this decade. –Gerald Eskenazi in Winkfield’s 1974 New York Times obituary

Three decades later, the New York Racing Association and the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame decided to do something about that.

At the turn of the last century, Winkfield was an international celebrity. He won the Kentucky Derby in 1901 and 1902, one of only a handful of jockeys to win the race in consecutive years. Those accomplishments, though, meant little in the face of rising economic and racial pressures in this country, and the Kentucky native had to leave the United States for Europe in order to practice his trade. It was 1904, and he was 22 years old.

In the early 20th century, white jockeys in the United States were becoming increasingly resentful of the fame and fortune of black jockeys, who were among the highest-paid and best-known athletes of their time. Winkfield came to New York from Kentucky in 1900, and his first stop, according to Joe Drape’s Black Maestro, was the track at Sheepshead Bay, where the color of his skin was more important than his skill in the saddle.

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