Why is Willie Simms important in horse racing?

The Kentucky Derby distance was trimmed from one and one-half miles to one and one-quarter miles in 1896. Willie (Willy) Simms (1870–?) of Augusta, Georgia, was the first winner of the race at that distance, in 1899. He won many of the best-known horse races in America, such as the Preakness Stakes (1898), Belmont Stakes (1893 and 1894), and the Champagne Stakes at Belmont (1895). He was also the first American jockey on an American horse to win on the English track, and he became the first black American jockey to win international fame.


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