Beating the Odds: Black Jockeys in the Kentucky Derby, 1870-1911
The Kentucky Derby is the premier American horse race. The first race was held in 1875 and 13 of the 15 jockeys were African Americans. African American jockeys continued to play an important role until the turn of the 19th century when they were forced from the Kentucky Derby and the other big American races, victims of the rising tide of Jim Crow. This paper uses a new data set based on the odds on all the entries in the Kentucky Derby between 1875 and 1915 to examine the willingness of owners and trainers to hire African American jockeys and the willingness of fans to bet on them.
Mriga Bansal, Joshua Chen, Ning Li, Jessica Schlossberg, and Weinan Yan, provided superb research assistance. We received several very helpful comments from Joseph Sabia our discussant and from the audience at the Western Economic Association meetings in Santiago Chile. We also benefitted from the discussion of our paper at a session on the economic history of sports at the World Economic History Conference in Boston in July 2018. The remaining errors are ours. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.