On November 2, the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame will honor an impressive class of inductees chosen from the city’s countless tremendous athletes. This class includes those from the sports of hockey; baseball; football; basketball; swimming; track and field; organizational; sports writing… and for the first time, horse racing! Retired Jockey Tony Black will step forward to be inducted into the Hall of Fame with this spectacular class, an honor of which he is truly appreciative and thrilled to accept.
Tony Black with Andrew Wolfsont at the 2023 Farmshow

“I’ve always heard of the organization, the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame, and never even thought anything about ever being considered for induction,” Tony said. “They cover basketball, baseball, football. If you look at all the impressive names that have been connected in the past, and the ones that are going in with me the same night, you can almost think that horse racing gets lost in the shuffle as a highly physical athletic event, for not just the horse, but a combination of human and animal athlete. Many times you hear from people, ‘You’re just sitting up there!’, but they’re people that haven’t galloped horses or ridden, and they don’t realize that it’s a highly physical athletic event for both participants.”

As soon as the news of his induction was made public, the congratulations started pouring in from the horse racing industry. One specific phone call made him very emotional. “I was talking to Ruth Constantine, one of the Board of Trustees of the Hall of Fame, and she handles all the public relations work. She wanted to let me know that I was the FIRST person in ANY aspect of horse racing to be inducted into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame! I said ‘Man, I’m first at something again’, and somebody else can be inducted, but they won’t be first!” he laughed. “That means trainer, owner, rider, whatever, I’m the first in horse racing to be inducted!”
Tony gives credit for his induction, also, to someone very well known to the horse racing industry. “It makes me think so much about the committee that comes up with the nominees and inductions, and I think one person that had something more to do with this was someone who understands horse racing, and that’s sports writer Dick Jerardi. What a guy! When his name came up, I said that I bet that he got the word out there that horse racing is being overlooked. He is so in tune with horse racing! He writes like he’s been on the backside with us.”
Tony semi-retired from racing in 2013 with win number 5200 on Smart Tori, a horse owned by his son, Anthony, then returned to ride a few more. His first thrilling win was in 1970 at the age of 18 with Stand By Me at Liberty Bell Racetrack in Philadelphia. On May 1, 2006, he became only the 20th jockey in North American racing history to win 5000 races, guiding Actcentric to a 12-length victory at the then-Philadelphia Park*, now known as Parx. According to Equibase, his earnings total more than $63.1 million with 33,940 starts in his illustrious career.
He is a co-holder of the North American record for most wins by a jockey, tying Albert Adams 63-year old record. “He did it in three days and I did in two days, on July 30 and July 31, 1993. I rode two at Philadelphia Park, and I went to Atlantic City Race Course that night and rose three, and all three of them won. They didn’t race the next day at Philadelphia Park, and I went to Atlantic City the next night and rode in all four and they all won.”
His prestigious career included numerous graded stakes wins, including the 1976 Vosburgh Handicap with My Juliet; 1977 Cotillion Stakes with Suede Shoe; the 1978 Selima Stakes with Candy Eclair; the 1996 Pennsylvania Derby with Devil’s Honor; and many others.
Tony Black’s Second Win at Liberty Bell Park

Tony emphasizes the importance of the horse racing industry for so many reasons. “It supports agriculture, and preserves land. It’s not just a gambling sport to create revenue. Pennsylvania has a tremendous breeding program, and Pennsylvania breds are highly respected horses. They can compete any place in the country! They’ve won Breeders’ Cups! They’ve won the Derby and the Preakness. We’ve had Pennsylvania breds like Smarty Jones, and there’s been other names in the past that go back to where I even forget the names, that were highly competitive animals.”

Tony is sad to see many tracks where he rode closed and gone, specifically Garden State Park. “I went to Garden State before I ever rode a race and watched my uncle ride, and I rode at Garden State Park when it burned down, and I rode there when they rebuilt it and tore it down, and now I do my grocery shopping there,” he said.
Even though he is officially retired, and almost 72 years old, fan-favorite Tony keeps active. He loves taking the time to meet his fans, and enjoys talking about his career to the public at many horse racing events. He is active in the organization Jockeys and Jeans, an affiliate of the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund, and participates in numerous fundraisers for permanently disabled riders.
Staying in shape is important to Tony, too. “I still get on horses. It beats going to the gym! I’ve been fit since I was 13 and wrestling in high school, and I could ride a race tomorrow!”
Will he return to riding one more time? He plans to ride one more at the age of 72. “It will probably be on one of Richie Vega’s horses, and I’ll probably be one of the oldest riders in North America to win a race, so maybe we will be in the Guinness Book of World Records! I’m in it once! Maybe I can get in it again!”
*ESPN – Anthony Black rides 5000th winner – May 3, 2006
Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame
Cover Photo Credit to Jeffrey Doyle
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