In the world of thoroughbred horse racing, Black jockeys have taken the lead — in and outside of the racetracks.

From trailblazers of racing’s storied past to jockeys and trainers currently forging their own legacy, below you’ll find the tales of five pivotal individuals who have broken barriers and forged a path for the next generation of racers.

Lasting Legacies from Horse Racing’s History

Since the inception of horse racing, Black men have made notable contributions to turf history. In fact, as jockeys, they were dominant throughout the first three decades of organized horse racing, with Black riders winning 15 of the first 28 Kentucky Derbys [1].

Although these men are long deceased, as pioneers of the sport, they helped pave the path that others would later follow. Two of these notable figures in the history of horse racing are Oliver Lewis and Isaac Burns Murphy, otherwise known as “The King of the Jockeys.”


Oliver Lewis (1956-1924)

Oliver Lewis
Image: Public Domain

Oliver Lewis is a trailblazer in the world of horse racing and widely considered as one of the most important Black jockeys in the sport’s history.

Born in 1856, in Fayette County, Kentucky, Lewis burst onto the scene, winning what would become America’s longest-running sporting event, the inaugural 1875 Kentucky Derby at the age of 19. His horse, Aristides — a colt trained by a Black trainer, Ansel Williamson — won the race convincingly by two lengths, setting the American record for a mile and a half [2].

Later that season, Lewis continued to showcase his talent, riding Aristides to second in the Belmont Stakes and three first place finishes at Churchill Downs. But Lewis’ star burned bright and fast. Despite his early success, he retired not long after the 1875 season, becoming a bookmaker and information supplier for bookies.

Isaac Burns Murphy “The King of Jockeys” (1861-1896)

Isaac Burns Murphy, born in Fayette County, Kentucky in 1861, is considered to be one of the greatest legends of American horse racing. At the ripe age of 14, Murphy began his career and quickly rose to national prominence as he topped racing leaderboards.

With fearless skill, Murphy dominated the Kentucky Derby three times:

  • 1884 – Buchanan
  • 1890 – Riley
  • 1891 – Kingman
Isaac Murphy
Image: Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. (Digital File Number: cph 3a50336)

He also won the American Derby four times and set an incredible record that still stands to this day — six wins in eight starts in the Kentucky Oaks Derby, which only races three-year-old thoroughbred fillies.

Aptly, his gallant style and vaunted skill earned him the nickname “The King of Jockeys.”

Despite passing away at the tender age of 34 on February 12, 1896, Murphy left an indelible impact on the sport. Nearly a half-century after his death, Murphy was honored among the first group of jockeys ever inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame during its inaugural year in 1955. And, to this day, he remains a celebrated figure in the annals of horse racing as one of the best to ever race a horse.

Present-Day Impact Makers

While men like Lewis and Murphy set the standard for Black excellence in horse racing, there are those who are upholding their legacy all across the country — including right here in Pennsylvania.


Kendrick Carmouche “King of Philly Riders”

On March 7, 1988, Kendrick Carmouche was born in Vinton, Louisiana. He was raised in a family of jockeys with both his brother and his father — Sylvester Jr. and Sylvester III — riding professionally.

Kendrick quickly emerged as a star, beginning his professional career at Louisiana Downs.

Over the years, his hard work, talent and placements earned him the title of “King of the Riders in Philly,” where he had five straight seasons with more than 200 victories and a record of four consecutive titles at Parx Racing.

2015 was his best year on record. He earned a career-best six graded stakes victories and a career-best purse of $8,1116,788 in earnings.

But 2021 was a milestone for both Carmouche and the sport when he rode Bourbonic to a 72.25-1 upset in the Grade 2 Wood Memorial Stakes. That ride punched his ticket to the Kentucky Derby — making him the first Black jockey since 2013 to ride in the Derby — where he finished 9th [3].

Beyond the $136,131,144 in purse earnings, Carmouche is a racing role model and advocate for the sport, seeking to promote riding and create opportunities for other disadvantaged young riders.

Uriah St. Lewis

In 1973, Uriah St. Lewis immigrated to the U.S. from Trinidad as a teenager. Early on, he fell in love with horses and racing. In pursuit of that dream, he and his wife bought a farm in Oklahoma where he began training horses under the tutelage of Robert Hayes.

Over the years, his dedication to this craft paid off. In 1988, he obtained his license and began working at renowned tracks, such as Remington Park, Blue Ribbon Downs and Fairmount Park. Under his guidance, his horses have amassed an impressive racing record, earning $14,292,323 in racing earnings with over 432 firsts, 644 seconds and 745 third place finishes [3].

But his pride and joy is Discrete Lover.

Lewis purchased the steed for $10,000, and over the next four years, Discrete Lover became his first graded stakes winner when the horse captured the Grade 3 Excelsior Stakes. In 49 starts between 2015 and 2019, Discreet Lover earned $1,452,735 in earnings, with 7 first, second and third place finishes a piece.

He currently works as a trainer at Parx Racing at Parx Casino in Bensalem.

Clarence B. King

Clarence was born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica, but came to the United States in 2004. From a young age, he saw the excitement of racing first hand. His dad was friends with jockeys so he spent a lot of time listening to their stories and watching races. He loved it so much, he even snuck out to go to the track sometimes.

He started his career working in the financial field, but found that he had no passion for it. He kept coming back to the horses — especially that calm feeling just before a gate breaks that excited him so much as a kid.

Now, he trains and owns horses in Pennsylvania and Florida, including 7 at Parx Racing like Southern Cents, No Sympathy and Hard West, who brought the most success in training.

Clarence B. King


He’s a big proponent for fostering diversity in the sport — believing you need different ideas and different perspectives to help foster the growth of the community.

Explore The Stories That Matter With Pennsylvania Horse Racing Association (PHRA)
At PHRA, we’re honored to profile just a few of the Black jockeys, trainers, and owners who have made their mark on horse racing this Black History Month.

Our passion is promoting thoroughbred and harness racing across the state, to all communities. And we hope you continue to follow our educational efforts as we explore the stories that make horse racing an integral part of Pennsylvania and the larger Commonwealth.


Blog Header Image Credit: Barbara Weidl/EQUI-PHOTO


[1] “Legacy of Black Jockeys,” Kentucky Derby,

[2] J Rank, “Oliver Lewis Biography,”

[3] “Uriah St. Lewis,” America’s Best Racing,

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