'I'm coming to get those roses': Kendrick Carmouche to be first Black jockey in Derby since 2013
Kendrick Carmouche will be the first black jockey to ride the Kentucky Derby in eight years, but that's only a small part of the story he wants to tell.
Growing up the son of a jockey in Louisiana, Carmouche got a taste of his lifestyle early on when he woke up at 4:30 a.m. to follow his father to the area bush trails.
In 2000, at the age of 16, he finally began to ride professionally. He has a 21-year career that took him from Louisiana to Texas to Philadelphia and now positions him as one of the best jockeys in New York.
He saw a painful six month recovery from a broken leg in a September 2018 race at Kentucky Downs, but saw some of the greatest achievements of his career including the 2020 Fall Meet title at Aqueduct and his first Class 1 win in December.
And on May 1st at Churchill Downs, he will race in the Kentucky Derby for the first time.
"If you don't dream it, it will never happen," said 37-year-old Carmouche. “I dreamed it. Being here at this point and how long it took and the hard work I put in to get to this point ... going to the Kentucky Derby is the icing on the cake and it's all on the cake.
“You have to polish yourself. You have to drive smart. You have to do all the right things and grind it out until that happens. I want to be here. "
A trophy was presented to jockey Kendrick Carmouche after winning the Rushaway Stakes aboard Vanzzy at Turfway Park on March 14, 2020.
Carmouche will have the Derby ride on Bourbonic, the Todd Pletcher trained colt who won the Grade 2 Wood Memorial on April 3rd at Aqueduct with 72-1 chances of winning. He becomes the first black jockey in the Kentucky Derby since Kevin Krigger, who finished 17th at Goldencents in 2013.
Black jockeys ruled the Kentucky Derby in its early days, winning 15 of the first 28 races. Oliver Lewis won the first derby on board Aristides in 1875. Isaac Murphy won three derbies in eight years aboard Buchanan (1884), Riley (1890) and Kingman (1891).
These days, Carmouche is only one of a handful of black jockeys in the United States. He wants to be an inspiration to aspiring jockeys of all colors and has never seen racism on the racetrack.
"I think people just have to open their eyes and realize that it doesn't matter what color you are," he said. "You work hard. You are an honest person. You want the best for yourself, your family, and the team you put together on the track so you can win races. It's not black or white. It's just purple or green whatever you want to call it. We all bleed the same. "
"Get out of Louisiana"
To hear Carmouche talk about racial relations is to hear his father talk about racial relations.
Sylvester Carmouche Jr. began riding professionally in 1978 and retired in 2013 at the age of 54 after breaking his neck. He ended his career with 1,348 wins and a purse win of more than $ 11.6 million, according to Equibase.com.
He said he was never denied opportunities because of his race.
"I never looked at it," said Sylvester Carmouche, 62. "The people were good to me and I got a lot of respect. I've never had a problem with people. "
Kendrick Carmouche said he learned how to treat people of all races while following his father in the footsteps as a child.
"He taught me to just look and be attentive and listen," he said. "That's the key."
Kendrick Carmouche began driving in Louisiana at Delta Downs, Evangeline Downs, and Louisiana Downs, and in Texas with Sam Houston. In 2001, with the help of former jockey agent Jack Servis, Carmouche moved north and began riding in Philadelphia Park.
Carmouche said it wasn't difficult to get out of the house.
"My parents told me to get the hell out of Louisiana," said Carmouche. "They told me," Make yourself your own home. "People get it twisted. They're trying to find their home where they've been all their lives. You can't do that. You have to make your own home with your own family, your own children."
Sylvester Carmouche said he and several other family members plan to be in Louisville on Derby Day to watch Kendrick ride a horse.
"I never thought I'd have one of my sons there," he said. "It means a lot. I said to him, 'God has a plan for you. Just live it.' .... Just to see him in the paddock, I'm so happy to be with him and support him. "
Jockey Kendrick Carmouche and True Timber won the Class 1 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct on December 5th. It was the first Class 1 win in Carmouche's career.
"Come to get these roses"
Kendrick Carmouche has amassed nearly 3,400 career wins and more than $ 118 million in wallets during his career, but he was fortunate that it didn't end in September 2018.
Carmouche's Mount Chattel rides in the Kentucky Downs Juvenile Turf Sprint and cuts off heels with another horse. Carmouche suffered a hair break in his right femur when he fell into a burial.
Carmouche was back on the road in less than six months. He said he never took pain medication during his recovery but had trouble sleeping for the first three months.
"I had no doubt that I would be back," he said. "No such thing. Not in my life. I have two children. I tell them that regardless of the obstacle, you have to keep pushing."
Carmouche pushed further and finally took his first Class 1 win aboard True Timber in the Cigar Mile on December 5th at Aqueduct.
He couldn't have imagined that Bourbonic would help him reach the Kentucky Derby for the first time, especially after a final spot on November 14th in Aqueduct. Carmouche suggested to Pletcher to add blinkers for Bourbonic's next race and the Benardini son has been 3-1 in four starts since then.
Pletcher credited Carmouche with a "clever drive" at the Wood Memorial as he rallied Bourbonic from last place at the start of the race to head over Dynamic One and secure a spot in the Run for the Roses.
"He knows how to fight and he knows how to overtake horses," said Carmouche of Bourbonic. "He doesn't come next to you to play around with. He comes to run. Some 3 year olds come over there and play around. This horse is seasoned and bred to go the distance."
Carmouche is known for his aggressive driving style and admits that some consider him cocky.
Kevin Bubser, Carmouche's agent since May 2017, called him a "nice guy" who loves fishing.
"He's not afraid of the limelight," said Bubser. "He likes the attention a little."
Confidence flows as Carmouche talks about his chances in the derby. He's hoping this will be the first of many trips to Louisville on the first Saturday in May, but he's not going to throw that shot away.
"The only thing I should do is park it right in the winners' circle," he said. "I think so. I'm coming to get these roses, baby. When I'm 2-1 or 100-1, that's how I feel. ... I have the corn. I'll get the chickens to eat me consequences. "
Follow Jason Frakes on Twitter: @KentuckyDerbyCJ.
This article originally appeared in the Louisville Courier Journal: Kentucky Derby 2021: Kendrick Carmouche first black jockey since 2013
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