Many may not have realized that Black folks in America connections to the elite world of thoroughbred horse racing actually runs deep. Back in the day, enslaved Black men were the trainers and jockeys of these champion stallions as they were the ones who took care of them and knew them best. And though the abolition of slavery came before the Kentucky Derby's first run, 13 of the 15 jockeys in its inaugural race in 1875 were African American; moreover, they won 15 of the first 28 runnings of the event. In fact, Black jockeys dominated the field. African American riders, such as Kendrick Carmouche, and other current-day Black jockeys carry this remarkable history through modern times and bring it to light as more African Americans participate in the noble equine sport on a greater scale.
Established in 2017, the Pegasus World Cup has been on a quest to make the sport of thoroughbred horse racing more modern and inclusive for all, bringing it back to its roots. The champion horse racing event provides lucrative opportunities for thoroughbred owners and trainers seeking to excel in the arena. Since it's inception, it's quickly established itself as South Florida’s leading luxury sports and lifestyle event of the year and is nationally broadcast on NBC—attracting lovers of horse racing near and far to catch a glimpse of it in real time.
Below, we recap the significant happenings outside of the races that took place during our recent outing at the Pegasus World Cup that honored the Black experience within the illustrious sporting landscape, and where Life Is Good won the $3 Million Pegasus World Cup prize.
Too Black, Too Fast Art Exhibit
This past weekend, the French luxury company Baccarat presented the curated multimedia art exhibition Too Black Too Fast, which celebrates the history and contribution of African American jockeys in thoroughbred horse racing by highlighting works whose creation span over three decades. Mixed media pieces from sculptor George Nock and visual artist Michael J. McBride amplifying story of Black jockeys who played an integral role in this history were on display. The pair also hope to eventually include the intersectional stories of Black women within the sport, commonly referred to as "the sport of kings" to reflect upon the evolution of thoroughbred racing since its beginning.
Contrary to what many believe, thoroughbred horse racing is not just for white folks. "The biggest misconception about thoroughbred racing is not knowing the true history of the sport. Right now, when you think about the sport, there are not too many people who generally know the origins of Black people and horse racing. True to the way America operates, you will not know Black history unless it is widely shared in the media or in books," said Michael McBride, co-creator of the exhibit. "1917 was the last time a Black jockey raced in the Kentucky Derby until 2002. That is an 85 year gap. We were ghosts on the track but with the resurgences of Black jockeys in the field of thoroughbred racing and with Too Black Too Fast, we can bring to light their accomplishments and remind folks that we've always been here."
Red Rooster Cocktail Dinner After-Party
Following a public viewing of the Too Black Too Fast exhibit, Instagram's "Club Quarantine" creator and EBONY Power 100 honoree DJ D-Nice got the party jumping with a dynamite set that could only be experienced in person. Darin Atwater and Soulful Symphony also took part with a stunning arrangement of tunes that both inspired and energized partygoers.
Additionally, to cap off the celebrity-filled event a multi-year partnership with 1/ST and the Ed Brown Society was announced. Founded by Living the Dream Racing & Stables and led by Greg Harbut and Ray Daniels, the Ed Brown Society celebrates the rich history of African Americans in the equine industry. This partnership, with a multi-year commitment of $150,000 from 1/ST, comprises of a paid internship scholarship program for African American students with opportunities for them to gain equine industry exposure, training and experience. The Ed Brown Society will use the funding to recruit and place qualified minority students from historically Black colleges and universities and other institutions, and provide them with ongoing direction as they progress toward permanent professional placements.
Pegasus Race Day
The Pegasus World Cup event experience is not just about the horse racing. It's about paying respect and tribute to the whole culture, from social activities to the actual equine sport. "The focus of Pegasus as a fairly new event has always been modernization; however, it's been important for us to respect the heritage and respect the past," shares CEO of 1/ST Experiences Jimmy Vargas. "There is a rich story to be told about one of the oldest sports. With the main focal point being the actual race coupled with our partnerships, entertainment and immersive culinary experiences, it's been a great opportunity to pay tribute to the past."
Another highlight of the weekend festivities was when DJ Cassidy brought his critically acclaimed groundbreaking series, Pass the Mic to the stage. Taking his transformative format to yet another level, the mix master passed the mic from one musical icon to the next, including hip hop and R&B greats Ja Rule, Lil’ Kim, Mase, Jadakiss and El DeBarge.
EBONY correspondent Yonathan Ellis was on hand to catch up with a few of the celebs as they took in the magnificence of the racing event and accompanying festivities.
And for those, who missed the broadcast of Pegasus World Cup 2022, check it out below: