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Kentucky Derby’s Forgotten Jockey; Meet James Winkfield, the Last African-American to Win the Derbies Back-to-back

In the wake of gaining a suspension in 1898 for demonstrating aggressive conduct that caused a four-horse mischance at the gate of a racetrack, James Winkfield learned from his misstep and turned out enormous the next year, winning his first race.

A half year later, he rode without precedent for the Kentucky Derby at 17 years old.

Born in Chilesburg in Kentucky in 1882, the two-time Kentucky Derby-winning racer, in spite of his popularity needed to experience life persevering prejudice, demise dangers, world war, and outcast.

Directly after the beginning of his profession, especially in 1901 and 1902, Winkfield won Kentucky Derbies consecutive, making him one of just four moves ever to do as such.

His triumphs turned into the roof for other dark maneuvers in America who were confronting segregation and bigotry.

 

 

Photo credit: CNN

Winkfield was however forced to move to Russia following racism and violence at the turn of the 20th century that forced many black jockeys out of US racing.

Right after getting in the country, Winkfield rose to fame once again. He won the All-Russian Derby and the Czar’s Prize in Russia, then went ahead to win several other major purses in Europe.

In Germany, he won the Grand Prix de Baden. In Poland, he won the Poland Derby twice and in France, he won the Prix du President de la Republique.

Winkfield made a mark in Europe; he became wealthy, married a Russian heiress, Alexandra and lived in Moscow. But when the Communist Party came to power in Russia in 1919, horse racing was banned.

Winkfield, now a trainer helped the racetrack community and 200 horses to escape from Odessa on a 1,000-mile journey to Poland. During the journey, the group survived by eating some of the horses on the way.

Winkfield made it to Poland and even went beyond to France, where his major wins included the Prix President de la Republic, Grand Prix of Deauville, and Prix Eugene Adam.

Photo credit: ABC

He retired from riding when he was 50 having won more than 2,500 races throughout a career of more than 30 years.

He later began a second successful career as a horse trainer in France but he was forced to flee again because of the German occupation during World War II.

He trained briefly in the United States and returned to France some years after the second world war to resume his career.

Winkfield died at his farm in France in 1974 and was survived by a daughter Lilian Casey.

In 2004, he was inducted posthumously into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. The New York Racing Association also named a race in his honour that runs each year at Aqueduct.

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