Author talks impact of African Americans on horse racing in Kentucky

Published 3:19 pm Wednesday, February 14, 2024

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The Winchester Black History and Heritage Committee always looks forward to educating others on the impact that African Americans have had in Winchester and abroad. 

With February being Black History Month and horse racing being a staple of Kentucky culture, Saturday morning’s guest at the Winchester Black History and Heritage Committee’s “Between the Lines” Book Club meeting at Clark County Public Library was quite appropriate. 

Wallace Howard, a Winchester native and author of “The Untold History From Slave Ships to Horse Racing,” attended the book club to answer questions, provide information, tell stories and more. 

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“This is a story that must be told. There are too many young kids out there in the streets that could benefit [by] learning about our true history,” said Howard, who has spent several decades buying, training, and racing horses. “Maybe they might want to be like…one of the jockeys or trainers, and have a profession they can depend on.” 

Howard regaled those in attendance with interesting stories about his time in horse racing, which included trips to Argentina and several other countries, as well as meeting a number of celebrities such as actor Lou Gossett Jr. 

However, he also touched on how he first gained interest. 

“I fell in love with the history of [African Americans] and the hardship they had to go through,” he said. “So, ever since then, I have been involved in the history of thoroughbred horse racing.” 

Specifically, Howard highlighted to those in attendance – and throughout his book – jockey Edward D. Brown. 

Born into slavery in 1850, Brown – nicknamed “Brown Dick” after a horse of that era – is an inductee of the United States Racing Hall of Fame. 

As a jockey, he won the Belmont Stakes – the final race in the Triple Crown – by riding Kingfisher in 1870, only the fourth year of the race. 

Later, as a trainer, he helped lead Baden-Baden to victory in the third ever Kentucky Derby in 1877, rode by African American jockey William Walker.

Other prominent African Americans figures associated with horse racing that were talked about on Saturday, and featured in Howard’s book, include Alonzo Clayon, Willie Simms, James “Soup” Perkins, Jimmy Winkfield, Oliver Lewis – the first winning jockey of the Kentucky Derby in 1875, and Isaac Murphy – the first jockey to win the Kentucky Derby in 1875. 

The earliest African American jockey known by name, “Monkey” Simon, is also mentioned. 

The information was met with excitement by present members of the Book Club – Eloise Lynch, Linda Caudill, James “Pee Wee” Robinson, Becky Farmer, Linda Rector, Joyce Morton, Anna Mason, Gralin Menifee, Jacquetta Hudson, and Jane Burnam. 

Many stayed afterward to receive Howard’s autograph. 

As for the future, Howard will continue to recognize the impact African Americans have had on horse racing via the creation of the Isaac Murphy Hall of Fame, with its first honoree to be recognized on Saturday, June 8th, 2024.