"What ever happened to Kenny Black?" is a question sure to have occurred at one time or another to those who follow thoroughbred racing. Well, Black is riding again in Southern California, but this time he's riding quarter horses at Los Alamitos.
Black, 31, was one of the leading thoroughbred riders in the early '80s. At Santa Anita, Hollywood Park and Del Mar, Black rode such top horses as Lady's Secret. A drug-related suspension in July 1984 prompted Black to leave California and pursue his riding career at Canterbury Downs, then a new track at Shakopee, Minn., a suburb of the Twin Cities. Soon, his younger brother Corey took his place in California and became one of the names on the thoroughbred circuit.
Black was the leading rider at Canterbury Downs before becoming Chuck Taliaferro's assistant trainer for a year. Then he returned to California to ride the Northern California fair circuit.
Black quit riding and worked as foreman for a construction company for three years but couldn't stay away from horses entirely and trained as many as 16 during the summer racing season.
"I think that helped my horsemanship so much," Black said. "It makes you a little more complete rider. Before, I could just come back and say, 'He's doing this.' Now I can come back and say, 'he's doing this and this is why.' "
In 1992, Black unpacked his tack one more time. For the next few years, he rode in his native Utah, Montana, Colorado, Arizona, Idaho and Wyoming, earning many leading-rider titles along the way.
"I'd just be getting fit and riding good by the end of the summer, then I'd quit for the winter," Black said, adding that played a part in his decision to move back to Southern California, where racing is a year-round business. "I'm not getting any younger. If I was going to do it, now was the time.
"I've been up in Utah, tuning up on quarter horses so I wouldn't embarrass myself."
His tune-ups resulted in five quarter horse stakes victories in the past three years, one last month.
"I grew up on quarter horses," said Black, whose father, Arden, rode at Los Alamitos in the '60s. "I always thought I could be a damn good quarter horse rider. [Los Alamitos] is home to me. I know every inch of this grandstand. I used to go sit in the hot box with my dad almost 30 years ago."
Black credits his family with helping him through the tough times and making it possible for him to ride again. And while Corey Black continues to light up the board at the thoroughbred tracks, Kenny Black is back and may soon be making a name for himself as a top quarter horse jockey.
Los Alamitos Notes
Dicey Secret won her third derby of the year in the $97,500 PCQHRA Breeders' Derby last Friday night. Ridden by Joe Badilla Jr., Dicey Secret scored a nose victory over fastest-qualifier Past Due Revenue. . . . Joes Tol earned her first graded stakes victory, defeating Meter Me Gone in the $20,000 Vandys Flash Handicap Saturday night. Connie Hall trained Joes Tol for owner Joseph Granone.
Jockey G.R. Carter rode at four tracks in three days, starting at Los Alamitos on Friday night. He then flew to San Antonio, Tex., finished second in the Texas Classic Futurity aboard Dutch Masters III's Reckless Roula on Saturday at Trinity Meadows in Willow Springs, then won the AQHA Challenge Championship aboard Ducky Fred at Retama Park. Sunday afternoon he rode at Turf Paradise in Phoenix before flying back to Los Alamitos to ride Higher Goals in the Las Damas Handicap Sunday night. . . . The best quarter horses in the nation will go to the post Friday night for the Los Alamitos Invitational Championship. Among the horses running in the the Grade I event will be Avison, Down With Debt, Refrigerator, My Debut and Pies Royal Request.