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Cheryl White was the first black female jockey in the United States. She made her mark while riding her mother’s horse, Ace Reward. Though she finished last in her first race, she made her winning mark in countless races to come.


White’s father, Raymond White, was a noted owner and trainer at the tracks in Ohio and Kentucky, with two Kentucky Derbys in his career. Her mother, Doris, owned several horses, including the one White would win five races with in a one-month period. She brought her mother’s horses back to wins after a long losing streak. Her success as a jockey was preserved on the July 29, 1971 cover of Jet Magazine.


It was tough for a female jockey, and White was a triple threat as a black woman and a young girl. That didn’t stop history. On Oct. 19, 1983, she became the first female jockey to win five thoroughbred races in one day at a major track.


White’s success won an invitation to the Boots and Bows Handicap, and all ladies’ race in Atlantic City in 1972. She won the race. A white female jockey, Mary Bacon, accused her of misconduct on the track, but the accusation didn’t stick.


In her 21 years of racing, White would win 750 races. At one point, she held a five-time winning streak at Apaloosa. In 1990, she was presented an Award of Merit by the African-American Sports Hall of Fame. But White’s story is not without tragedy. Later, her license was suspended after it was discovered that she had made a $2 bet while working as an official. She attended Gamblers Anonymous and exercised horses to support herself during her suspension.


Last year in Baltimore, White was among eight history-making female jockeys who crossed the finish line in a legends race. White now works as an official of horse racing. In addition, Lexington, Kentucky is constructing a new park to honor African-Americans in racing and will include her in the historical presentation.

(As found on