Photo courtesy of Hispanicize

The Kentucky Derby, the famous annual thoroughbred horse race, has been influenced over the years by Latinos and their unique way of training horses.

The Kentucky Derby is held every year on the first Saturday of May in Louisville. The race is dedicated mainly to three-year-old thoroughbred horses and is the first of the triple crown racing competition, followed by the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes.

Among the favorite horses in this competition, those with Latin American bloodlines are at the top. This is due to a decades-long history of Latino horse riders’ influence.

The impact of Latinos and their horses

Looking back at the history of the sport, the horses and some of the riders that have influenced it the most come from Latin America.

During the 1971 Kentucky Derby competition, a horse from Venezuela named Cañonero II, and his jockey Gustavo Avila made history by beating 19 other horses even though they outweighed Cañonero II in weight and size. His trainer explained that he didn’t train his horse to be the fastest. He trained him to be a star.

Cañorero II’s victory in the Kentucky Derby encouraged many people to attend the race, among them many Latinos, even more so after being crowned victorious in the second Triple Crown race, the Preakness Stakes, making it clear that Latino trainers know what they are doing. 

Then in 1976, Angel Cordero, a Cuban rider, would make history with his horse Bold Forbes, winning the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes. Despite being smaller than the rest of the field, Bold Forbes ran the first half of the race faster than any horse had done before that day in that race.

Bold Forbes’ trainer, Larry Barrera, gained fame from this. His horses would win multiple competitions, leading him to become the first and only trainer to be nominated to the racing hall of fame in more than one country: Mexico, Cuba, and the United States.

The vast majority of the riders competing in this race have trained in the best schools in Latin America. Among them, the schools of Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Panama stand out. In fact, in 2015, Latino riders competing were 61% compared to the rest. These statistics also apply to the horses, with Argentine thoroughbreds being the favorites to choose. A sample of this is the legendary horse Candy Ride, the first choice when looking for the best genes. This year’s favorite horse is Epicenter. His dam is Silent Candy, a relative of Candy Ride.