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The Great Black Jockeys by Ed Hotaling

The Great Black Jockeys

by Ed Hotaling

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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0761514376, Hardcover)

The most engrossing sports stories have a way of sneaking up on you. They explore issues much broader than competition, who won, and who lost; they are sports stories because they take place on the fields of play, but the light they shed illuminates much more than the athletic arena. On one level, The Great Black Jockeys is certainly about sports--indeed, racing was America's first national sport. But it's also about much more than that. It's an absorbing history, at times tragic, at times inspiring, of a nation in transition and the complex interrelationship between sports, society, attitudes, and race.

The overriding tragedy here is that this particular story essentially ends just after the turn of the 20th century. Before that, black riders dominated the game. In slave days, race riding could be a route to freedom. It was certainly a route to fame and a share of fortune. Whether a match race for bragging rights in the field, or a leg of the prestigious Triple Crown, black riders had at least a fair shake. Isaac Murphy, whose winning percentages have never been matched, won a trio of Kentucky Derbies. Jimmy Winkfield won back-to-back Runs for the Roses in 1901 and 1902. Yet, no black rider has piloted a winner in a major American stakes race since 1909. What happened?

By introducing us to a forgotten chapter in sports history and a host of deserving athletic legends sadly overlooked by time, Hotaling explores what did happen, and why a sport that witnessed blacks and whites competing as equals for so long at the highest levels suddenly locked the starting gate. The story Hotaling tells is as fascinating as it is painful, a story of opportunity unsaddled by prejudice and fear, and never significantly remounted again. "This is not black history," he makes clear. "It is not white history. It is American history." And like so much of American history, it's more complex than black and white. --Jeff Silverman

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:02:39 -0400)

Offers profiles of the great African American jockeys who were prominent from the early 1700s to the turn of the twentieth century.

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