Kendrick Carmouche’s education began when he was a young boy sitting with his father as they drove through southwest Louisiana in a pre-dawn haze. He spoke of balance, speed and soft hands. He talked to horses.
Sylvester Carmouche was a jockey. a good one.
He won nearly 700 races at big-time tracks such as Fairgrounds in New Orleans and Louisiana Downs near Shreveport. As Kendrick was growing up, however, the Carmouches were weigands, traveling the tracks of shrubs cut from the sugarcane fields and encountered by honorable-tonks with names such as The Quarter Pole and Cajun Downs.
Sylvester Carmouche lost his license to ride on an approved racetrack after pulling off an audacious, un-advised stunt during a foggy race. But Kendrick Carmouche – who would try to become the first black jockey in 119 years to win the Kentucky Derby on Saturday – never thought of his father as “The Fog Jockey”, as did many others. He deemed her a Ph.D. In horse racing and as “pops” that took him everywhere and taught him everything.
He still does. And he says that before he sets foot on a calf named Bourbonic for the derby, he will hug his father and thank him for making him the jockey and the man he is today.
“Look, I’m 37 years old and I’ve covered a lot of pavement, worked hard and remained positive through tough times,” Kendrick Carmouche said. “I have learned everything from my platform.”
The presence of Carmouche in the opening gate would be interwoven with history. He knows that a black jockey, Oliver Lewis, won the first derby in 1875 and 15 of the first 28 editions of the race were won by black jockeys, most recently in 1902 Jimmy Winkfield.
He also has deep knowledge about the nation’s ongoing dialogue about caste.
Last June, Carmouche helped organize an event when racing returned to New York Moment of peace Belmont Park for Epidemic Losers. Then he and more than a dozen fellow jockeys protested the killing of George Floyd, demonstrating solidarity in each.
But for all the possible importance of his derby ride, Carmouche said he must have been thinking mostly about his father. “He gave me a lot of lessons and loves,” he said.
Lesson 1 was that shortcuts have consequences. Sylvester Carmouche was riding the Bush Circuit during his son’s teenage years as he tried to get one on racing officials and betting public affairs.
On January 11, 1990, Vinton, LA. And the dense fog at Delta Downs in Sylvester Carmo could barely see his horse’s nose, let alone competing with him. In the 11th race, Sylvester, the landing officer, appeared to win easily.
Probably very easily.
The landing officer, a 23-to-1 long shot, won by about 25 lengths and tied the track record for a race of about a mile. Later, the track The vet noticed that neither the horse nor the jockey looked curled or dirty.
Sylvester Carmouche was accused of slipping the landing officer out of the race from the start, hiding in the fog until the other horses rounded the track and then charged back into the race ahead of the pack, near the final turn. The Louisiana Racing Commission found him guilty and suspended him for 10 years.
“I’ve done it. I was wrong. I took my time at 62.” The only good thing that came out of it was that I got time to spend with Kendrick and my family. “
Sylvester took Kendrick to school on tracks in Louisiana cities like Carscrow and Abbeville, where amid betting coupes and Zedico music, and often fueled by Budweiser and Bowdin sausages, the boys had been learning that racehorse for more than a century How to run Those unheard bush tracks are as much a part of Cajun culture as the Sunday Mass and Crawfish boils.
Eddie Delahouse, Kent Desmore and Calvin Burrell – Hall of Famers and Kentucky Derby winners – are among the Cajun jockeys who developed their craft as 11- or 12-year-olds in the race for the match Saddies tied at $ 10,000 were at high stakes. .
Sylvester Carmouche won the race for buses on the tracks of small towns in his youth, as well as in his youth.
When Kendrick turned 13, her father was convinced that he had practiced his tutorials and hours on the family’s Shetland Johnnies. So he gave his son a well-groomed look and took him to the starting gate of the Acadiana Downs for a first taste of the race ride.
“He did a good job – finishing second in four horse races,” said Sylvester Carmouche. “He came back with a smile that hasn’t left him yet.”
When Kendrick turned 16, she obtained her jockey license and began riding professionally in Delta Down. He knew at least one person in the jockey’s room – his father. Sylvester Carmuche’s license was reinstated in 1998, two years ago.
As proud as his son was, Sylvester had another lesson for him: “I told him to go east. Louisiana was also good for me, but she had a big world to see and to make her living.
So five days before the age of 17, Kendrick Carmouche moved his deal to the Philadelphia area to take on the Mid-Atlantic Circuit. He met the woman he would marry, started a family and became a money earner in Parx racing.
Back in Louisiana, Sylvester Carmouche gained attention for a more upbeat cause, as the primary pilot of Holiday Dreams, a mare that won 25 of its 30, including 16 in a row. She retired at the age of 55 in 2013 with 1,348 wins on sanctioned tracks and more than $ 11 million in purses. He still gallops a few horses near his home in Arnaudville, La.
In 2015, after winning five riding titles at Parx, Kendrick Carmouche decided that he was ready for the premier racing circuit in New York, America. He introduced himself to his trainers to work their horses – up to a dozen a day – to make the most of the race opportunities in the morning and in the afternoon.
In New York, Carmoach is all business. On Wednesday, he says goodbye to his wife, Whitney, his daughter, 15-year-old Olivia, and 12-year-old son, Kendrick, and leaves their home in Dale’s Newark, Del., For a two-and-a-half-hour drive. Hotel near the track. He returns home on Sunday after his last race.
This focus has helped Carmouche climb the jockey standings each year, mounting more and earning more money. Last fall, he won the riding title at Aqueduct, his first in New York and he is currently ranked No. 7 in the nation in earnings.
No one else in the New York Racing Association jockey colony looks like him. Nor have any riders taken a ride in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Delaware, or anywhere else. In the Jim Crow era, Black Jockeys were kicked out of the game and are now a rare scene in the competition.
Carmouche said his race never held him back in the game and pointed to his more than 3,400 career wins and more than $ 118 million in purse earnings as proof.
“I work hard. I’m good for everybody,” he said. If you treat me the same way, I don’t care if you’re pink or green. I’ve learned that from pops as well. “
Now Carmouche has his first Kentucky Derby mount, which, perhaps for fitting, is a long shot to claim a rose garland.
Earlier this month, Bourbonic left at the Wood Memorial in Aqueduct at a difference of 72 to 1 and trapped eight other horses for a mile. However, in the stretch, Carmouche smoked on his calf, rubbed his neck and gained each ounce of momentum to win with a noose.
“All I ever wanted is the opportunity,” said Carmouche. “I’ve earned it everywhere I’ve rode. Now I have the opportunity to bring those roses home. I won’t count me.”