02/15/2002 12:00AM

HISTORY CHALLENGE - Black jockeys: Parting the waters of memory

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In no sport did African-Americans play a more profound role from the beginning than in horse racing.

Slaves were riding their master's horses in match races as early as the 17th century. The participation of African-Americans peaked just before the Civil War, but they remained a potent force in racing until the beginning of the 20th century.

As America celebrates Black History Month, created in 1976 to recognize the contributions of African-Americans to the nation's history, African-Americans' importance to racing history cannot be overstated.

Thirteen of the 15 riders in the first Kentucky Derby were African-American. In all, black riders won 15 of the 28 runnings of the Kentucky Derby from 1875 to 1902. But as the 20th century progressed, African-Americans nearly disappeared from the sport.

When Marlon St. Julien guided Curule to a seventh-place finish in the 2000 Kentucky Derby, he was the first African-American jockey to ride in the classic in 79 years.

Test your knowledge of African-Americans who played pivotal roles in the history of Thoroughbred racing in America.

1. When legendary jockey Earl Sande rode Gallant Fox to victory in the 1930 Kentucky Derby, he became only the second rider in history to win the Louisville classic three times.

The first was this African-American jockey, who some consider the greatest rider in the sport's history. When racing's Hall of Fame was inaugurated in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., in 1955, he was in the elite group of riders inducted first.

In a career that spanned only about two decades, he won 44 percent of the races in which he rode, a win percentage that has never been equaled.

Name him.

2. Sports Illustrated magazine broke the story that this former great jockey, whose record in the Kentucky Derby was 2-1-1 in four mounts, was going to attend the Louisville classic in 1961. It was his first visit to Churchill Downs in 58 years.

The National Turf Writers Association chose to honor this African-American athlete at its Derby week banquet at the posh Brown Hotel in Louisville. When the 79-year-old former jockey arrived for the event, he was informed by the hotel staff that he could not enter through the front door.

Embarrassed association officials quickly rectified the situation.

Name the jockey.

3. In 1888, he became the first jockey since official records were kept to win 200 races in one year. His 206 victories from 626 mounts were more than double the next best rider that year. He repeated the following year as the nation's leading rider.

His victories included the Belmont Stakes, Travers Stakes, Futurity Stakes, Champagne Stakes, and Latonia Derby. Name him.

4. He is the only African-American jockey to win each of the Triple Crown events. He was 2 for 2 in the Kentucky Derby.

In the 1890's, he rode in New York for some of the richest and most successful Eastern stables, and was the nation's leading jockey in 1893 and 1894.

While Hall of Fame great Tod Sloan (a white rider) is generally credited with making famous the style of riding low on a horse, it was this rider who introduced that crouching style to England.

Name him.

5. In the 127-year history of the Kentucky Derby, 13 African-American trainers have saddled starters - only one in the past 50 years.

In the first 17 runnings of the race (1875 to 1891), six of these trainers won the race - each with his first Derby starter.

Name the African-American trainer who saddled Aristides to win the first running of the Kentucky Derby.

See "History challenge answers" story under Headline News