Real Experiences for BHM 2016: The Kentucky Derby

Today in Black History: If you're from SC, chances are you've heard of Carolina Cup. It was really popular among my white friends, not so much amongst my black friends. For those of you not familiar with it, it's horse race. Most people probably don't think much about horse racing but it used to be (and probably still is in some circles) a really big deal. Interestingly, my great-grandfather--Edison Gaines--was a horse trainer. His horse, King Clover placed 13th in the Kentucky Derby of 1951. Almost every list I find spotlighting Black horse trainers lists him, which is pretty cool--I can't imagine it was an easy task to 1) become a horse trainer, 2) acquire a horse worth training, or 3) convince the Kentucky derby to let you race said horse in the race during his era. I didn't get to meet my great-grandfather, but no one can deny that some things are just passed down by blood. By the time I was 7 or 8 I was begging my parents for a horse (not a pony, a real horse...specifically, I wanted a black horse like Tornado from Zorro). While the only thing I may have trained my horse to do is come to the door of the barn where the treats are stored (I have a habit of giving her a treat each time I visit home), I definitely feel the draw to horses. I've never been to Cup; it never seemed like something I should go to (re: I would probably be one of very very few Black people there) but like many aspects of American culture, Black people have been active in and shaping horse racing for a long time--since the very beginning actually. I think it's important to know just how far reaching our presence has been in American culture and to appreciate the range of interests and talents that come out of our community. Who knows, maybe one day I will attend a horse race.

(from left to right)My great-uncle Bill, grandfather George Gaines,
great-grandfather Edison Gaines, and Bosh Hammond (the horse owner)


  1. Christopher Klein. "The Kentucky Derby’s Forgotten Black Jockeys". History. May 3, 2013
  2. "Trainer Records Kentucky Derby (1898-2016)". Kentucky Derby; visited February 2016

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