This Day in History: 1876-03-27
Alonzo “Lonnie” Clayton is born. An African American jockey in Thoroughbred horse racing, Clayton was one of the all-time great riders, holding the record as the youngest jockey to ever win the Kentucky Derby. In 1890 at just fourteen-years-old, Clayton began his professional riding career and was Immediately successful. At Morris Park Racetrack in The Bronx, New York, Clayton won the important Champagne Stakes. On May 11, 1892, he rode to victory in the Kentucky Derby which at age fifteen made him the youngest jockey in history to ever win the Derby. Clayton followed up his Derby success with victories in the Clark Handicap and the Travers Stakes. At Monmouth Park in New Jersey Clayton won the 1893 Monmouth Handicap and went on to win the fall riding title at Churchill Downs. One of the leading money winners on the East Coast racing circuit during the 1890s, he won races from New York to California. In 1895, he won 144 races and finished in the money sixty percent of the time. By the start of the 20th century, racism forced the complete elimination of African-American jockeys, who had dominated racing and who had played a major role in bringing Thoroughbred racing to the forefront of American sport. Since 1909, no African-American jockey has ridden a winner in any major American Graded stakes race. No longer permitted to make a living in horse racing, Clayton spent his final years working as a hotel bellhop in California, where he died at age 40 of chronic pulmonary tuberculosis in 1917. Learn more.