JOCKEY JIM, the educational and entertaining stage play about the African-American roots of thoroughbred racing, is being performed live each night of Derby week.
The play is based on the career of Jimmy Winkfield, the two-time Derby winner who went on to ride winners at racetracks spanning a quarter of the globe. He was earning $100,000 a year in the early 1900s.
Last of the great black jockeys who dominated the early years of the Kentucky Derby – winning 15 of the first 28, including the inaugural run May 17, 1875 – Winkfield has a fascinating saga, filled with backside intrigue and fortunes changing hands against the backdrop of 20th century war and upheaval.
He rubbed shoulders with royalty, married an heiress, and counted Josephine Baker, Bing Crosby and Paul Robeson among his admiring friends. He won the Derby in 1901 and 1902, then went to Russia and became a national phenomenon. He helped evacuate the racing community during the Bolshevik revolution, relocated to France, and was a prosperous trainer until Nazi occupation during World War 2 forced his return almost destitute to a racially-segregated America, where black jockeys had become unknown figures of a forgotten past. Suddenly the famous black horseman and his aristocratic wife were transformed into a stable hand and domestic servant, struggling to hold together a mixed marriage that was illegal in most states. Though haunted by ghosts of greatness past and ridiculed as a lunatic and preposterous liar, Winkfield used competitive drive and equestrian genius to overcome bigotry and reclaim a forgotten legacy.
WHEN: April 30, May 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6, each night at 8 pm
WHERE: Henry Clay Theater, 604 S. Third St., Louisville, KY
ADMISSION: $20 cash at the door
RESERVATIONS: firstname.lastname@example.org or 502-727-7972.