Podcast: The forgotten black history of the Kentucky Derby

LEXINGTON, KENTUCKY, SUNDAY, MARCH 17, 2019 - Leon Nichols, 51, stands next to the family headstone
Leon Nichols, a founder of Project to Preserve African-American Turf History, stands next to the headstone for the family of jockey Oliver Lewis at African Cemetery No. 2, located on a small lot in a suburban neighborhood in Lexington, Ky.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Tucked off a quiet two-lane road lined by towering oak trees in Lexington, you’ll find African Cemetery No. 2, the burial site of many of Kentucky’s first — yet often least remembered — jockeys and horse trainers.

The headstones — cracked, chipped, crumbled — rise sporadically across eight acres of dried grass. Mold and wind have eaten away at the slabs of stone, but if you kneel close enough, maybe wipe a palm across the faded inscriptions, family names emerge.





These men were legends. They were firsts.

For the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby, “Arrive Early, Leave Late” takes a different turn, as national correspondent Kurtis Lee talks about the little-known story of the African American jockeys who rode to victory in the early days of Churchill Downs.

COLUMN ONE: In a neglected cemetery lie black jockeys who helped create the Kentucky Derby »


Behind the story: How a drive through rural Kentucky led to a mostly forgotten part of black history »

The Times launched “Arrive Early, Leave Late” in October to take listeners closer to the action of L.A.’s home teams. Hosted by Beto Durán and featuring The Times’ award-winning reporters and columnists, the podcast combines in-depth interviews, the best moments from the games and a look inside the front offices.

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