Kendrick Carmouche: First Black Jockey Since 2013 to Compete at the Kentucky Derby

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Kendrick Carmouche is working to recapture the lost glory of black jockeys. He’s one of the few riders of color in a sport that black men built. Unfortunately, they were faced with racial segregation and it’s been difficult to repair the damage. 

Nonetheless, Carmouche is determined to do his best to make a lasting impact in horseracing. We highlight his full story.

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Kendrick Carmouche’s Early Life

Carmouche in a competition. Source: Instagram

Carmouche was born in Louisiana and was exposed to horse racing from an early age. His father, Sylvester Carmouche Jr., was a jockey, and he tagged. He competed at the professional level for 35 years before a neck injury forced him to retire. Kendrick had a template of what horseracing looks like; he told Saratoga Living 

“Everything I know about horses, I learned from my dad: working hard, balancing, using my hands and pacing the horse.”

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Professional Riding

The journey of Kendrick Carmouche. Video Credit: At The Races

His first experience of racing came at an early age. He raced at the Delta Downs and Evangeline Downs in Louisiana and Sam Houston in Texas. His first race victory came at the Evangeline Downs, making him want to achieve more.

“My first win made me want more. I was young when it happened but I still remember it,” he said.

At the age of 16, Carmouche moved to Philadelphia. He competed at the mid-Atlantic tracks and then raced at the Parx Circuit. Between 2008 and 2011, he won seven races and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2015. 

Carmouche then went to New York, where he competed at the New York Racing Association (NYRA) events.

Going to New York gave me a chance to prove myself because that’s where the best riders are, and I wanted to be there.

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Kentucky Derby

spotcovery-2009 Alysheba Stakes (Grade 3) won by Bullsbay. Was on the undercard of the 2009 Kentucky Oaks during Kentucky Derby weekend.
2009 Alysheba Stakes (Grade 3) won by Bullsbay. Was on the undercard of the 2009 Kentucky Oaks during Kentucky Derby weekend. Source: Wikimedia licensed by CC-BY-SA-2.0

More than 20 years since he turned professional. Carmouche has over 3,400 wins, career earnings of more than $140 million and six Grade 2 wins. S

The jockey’s first grade 1 competition came at the Cigar Mile at Aqueduct aboard True Timber in 2019. He was the leader of the meet. Carmouche has had numerous great achievements but perhaps one of his biggest came in 2021.

Riding a Bourbonic, he won the race at Wood Memorial and booked a spot at the Kentucky Derby, which made him the first black jockey since Kevin Krigger in 2013 to compete at the Kentucky Derby. He finished the race in 13th place, but the moment was of great significance in raising the profile of black jockeys in the sport

“This is something I’ve wanted my entire career and I hope it inspires people of color. I believe you can achieve anything as long as you do the work.”

Kendrick Carmouche is intentional about bringing up the vibrancy of black jockeys in the sport once more. He continues to do so and even after he leaves, his contribution will always be remembered.  

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