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Rich Strike highlights horse racing's lack of diversity

Rich Strike highlights horse racing's lack of diversity

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — When Rich Strike bolted into horse racing's spotlight inside a little over set of two minutes accompanied by his Kentucky Derby upset victory, he shared the phase accompanied by his handler, who has lengthy toiled inside the shadows constantly tending to the champion colt.

Rich Strike's observation stems for winning while a almost 81-1 lengthy shot, nevertheless groom Jerry Dixon Jr.'s new-found recognition comes from actuality one of few Black horsemen left-hand inside the (competitive) game(s) on one occasion dominated by people who look exist fond of him.

"I completely comprehend it since I was looking at something concerning the Derby with every one other accompanied by I saw how there were Blacks inside the beginning," said Dixon, 31 with every one other accompanied by a fourth-generation horseman who works accompanied by his father — trainer Jerry Sr. — for Eric Reed, who trains Rich Strike.

"And at that hour dated years afterward, you tin see the change, exist fond of we were slowly fading away."

A lack of diversity is one of the biggest obstacles to grow inside horse racing, down accompanied by inconsistent safety with every one other accompanied by medication standards. The management stepped inside to address safety with every one other accompanied by doping concerns, nevertheless there is no indeed national program to grow diversity — by gender or contest — inside the industry.

That wasn't always the instance for African-Americans, who were a answer small portion of early Derby history with every one other accompanied by thoroughbred racing.

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Black jockeys won 15 of the earliest 28 Derbys accompanied by Isaac Murphy winning the marquee contest trio times from 1884-91 earlier to Willie Simms with every one other accompanied by Jimmy Winkfield every one won twice in the centre of 1986 to 1902. Black people too owned with every one other accompanied by trained thoroughbreds into and not here of the early 20th century earlier to segregation with every one other accompanied by Jim Crow laws inside the South pushed numerous away from horse racing by restricting jockey licensing with every one other accompanied by ownership.

That history is justly well known, nevertheless what's new is how the few members of the Black population still engaged inside the (competitive) game(s) seems to exist shrinking.

A handful of Black horsemen tin exist seen around the backside barns of tracks employed while trainers, grooms with every one other accompanied by heated walkers, nevertheless their numbers are scarce compared to the overwhelming presence of Latino workers.

With no indeed governing body inside horse racing, exact numbers are not available. However, no indeed one disputes the shift inside demographics.

"What the racism did inside America, Caucasian people didn't want to see Black people have stuff exist fond of that," said historian with every one other accompanied by horseman John Taylor Jr.

"And while hour dated went by with every one other accompanied by Blacks stopped taking an attentiveness inside the (competitive) game(s) with every one other accompanied by stopped employed on the backside, that's when you started seeing the (Latinos) coming in. The jobs that they're doing now, we used to do."

Economics with every one other accompanied by the hour dated demands of tending to horses are factors regularly cited inside the low number of Black with every one other accompanied by white people employed inside the barns. But while Saturday's Belmont Stakes — the last lower limb of the Triple Crown — pays a prize purse of $1.5 million, daily races are a a large amount of less lucrative accompanied by smaller payouts that must exist divided multiple ways among owners, trainers with every one other accompanied by workers.

It does not build for a lavish lifestyle.

Many backside workers at Churchill Downs exist inside dormitories near the barns or above them. Compared to other industries that pay higher wages with every one other accompanied by provide place hours accompanied by health benefits, horse racing is a done every one day position of employment that requires getting up well earlier to sunrise to train with every one other accompanied by protected from danger keeping for horses. Then, coming spine inside the afternoon to do it again. Days off are firm to go nearer by.

Horsemen interviewed for this tale declined to talk over pay rates, pay scales with every one other accompanied by benefits — which tin vary. They are fast to point not here that horse racing is not for everybody.

Horsemen such while the Dixons with every one other accompanied by trainer Mark Simms Jr. speak they do it for deep affection of the animals with every one other accompanied by the sport. Not to mention, it's inside their blood.

"My grandpa would have told you that I learned how to stroll walking over towards the barn," said Simms, whose great-grandfather, grandad with every one other accompanied by uncle are among some relatives inside racing.

"You tin go to Target with every one other accompanied by tin inside all likelihood build 15 bucks an hour or something exist fond of that. And you labour for five days a week," Simms said. "This really is something that you have to have a passion for to do, to obtain up with every one other accompanied by do it every one day."

The stables are an entry point into horse racing, nevertheless Greg Harbut is employed to grow the involvement of Black people inside all phases of the sport, including thoroughbred ownership with every one other accompanied by management.

The third-generation horseman with every one other accompanied by partner Ray Daniels comprise leadership of the Ed Brown Society with every one other accompanied by Living The Dream Stables, a thoroughbred syndicate comprised of minority ownership. The set of two partnered on colt Necker Island, who finished ninth inside the 2020 Kentucky Derby.

EBS not long ago partnered accompanied by Churchill Downs for an internship program to go nearer behind up a foregoing pairing accompanied by the Stronach Group that owns Baltimore's Pimlico Race Course with every one other accompanied by Santa Anita Park inside California. The Society has set of two college interns currently employed at Santa Anita with every one other accompanied by looks to introduce contemporaneous with every one other accompanied by future generations to horse racing.

"When you look at a a large amount of minorities, they've got set of two to trio generations removed where they couldn't flat go to someone to obtain the history, the horsemanship or have a mentor to go nearer up with," said Harbut, whose great-grandfather, Will Harbut, was a groom to legendary thoroughbred Man o'War.

"And that's really what's missing," Harbut said. "The horsemanship has not been passed down from number of years to number of years while it on one occasion was."

But the involvement of the Dixons, Harbut with every one other accompanied by Simms demonstrate it's still there. And they hope their dedication to the (competitive) game(s) inside different capacities helps lift awareness inside the Black community.

Rich Strike's stunning Derby come first in has certainly provided a payoff for Jerry Dixon Jr. on numerous levels.

"I know it's large for our the arts since we need a different way, a different view of things to try something that most people don't exist fond of to step not here of the ease area for," said Dixon, who aims to exist a trainer exist fond of his dad.

"Horse racing saved my life. I don't know where I would exist lacking horse racing with every one other accompanied by to top if off, to exist associated accompanied by with a Derby winner is a fantasy go nearer true."

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AP Sports Writer Stephen Whyno contributed to this report.

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More AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/apf-sports with every one other accompanied by https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Rich Strike highlights horse racing's lack of diversity

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