Cheryl White, First Black Female Jockey, Passes Away at 65 — Memorial Fund Established in Her Honor

Although Cheryl White passed away in September, her family wants to continue her legacy by setting up a fund to introduce horses to underprivileged children.

Photo courtesy of Raymond White III.

EDITED PRESS RELEASE — Cheryl White, America’s first black female jockey, passed away at the age of 65 on September 20, 2019. Her memorial was held on October 18 at Thistledown Race Track in Cleveland, OH, where she rode her first race on June 15, 1971 at the age of 17.

Cheryl was no stranger to horses growing up. She was born into a horse racing family and was raised on a horse farm. Her father, Raymond White, Sr., was an accomplished Thoroughbred trainer, and her mother, Doris, was a racehorse owner.

Over the course of her 21-year career as a jockey, Cheryl won over 750 races. As reported by a recent betchicago article, when asked about her first race at Thistledown, astride a horse named Ace Reward, Cheryl said, “I just wanted those gates to open. I wasn’t nervous and knew I’d be first out and get the lead.”

Cheryl was right. Ace Reward  started off in the lead in the fifth race at Cleveland’s Thistledown Race Track and for about three-eighths of a mile in the $2,600, six-furlong race, it looked as if the filly would carry her rider to a historic victory. However, the filly lagged and the pair finished last out of 11 horses.

Be that as it may, the five-foot-three, 107-pound White, atop her father’s horse, made history as the first black female jockey in the United States. That outing was the first of two scheduled probationary rides for White as she worked toward becoming the first nonwhite woman licensed to jockey.

Photo courtesy of Raymond White III.

That wouldn’t be the only time Cheryl White would make history.

On September 2, 1971, at Waterford Park, Cheryl became the first black woman to win a Thoroughbred horse race in the United States. As a Thoroughbred jockey, she also because the first woman to win two races on the same day in two states when she won a race in Thistledown in Ohio and then another one at Waterford Park in West Virginia. Cheryl accomplished another historic milestone when, on October 19, 1983 at the Fresno Fair, she because the first female jockey to win five races in one day.

Cheryl graced the cover of the July 1971 issue of Jet magazine and the front page of The Plain Dealer on June 16, 1971 due to her groundbreaking achievements and for breaking the color barrier in horse racing. She is also in the Appaloosa Hall of Fame, has been nominated for the Cleveland Sports Hall of Fame and is a recipient of the Award of Merit by the African American Sports Hall of Fame.

Cheryl White in 2010. Photo courtesy of Raymond White III.

Cheryl’s family would like to create a permanent memorial and foundation in her honor. The foundation will help inspire and introduce horses, horse racing, riding and other aspects of the industry to children who are underprivileged and at risk, but will be open to all children no matter their background.

To donate to the Cheryl White Memorial Foundation, visit this website. All donations will be put towards the permanent memorial and foundation.

“Cheryl was never a great self-promoter, and wasn’t concerned with the politics of  racing,” said her brother, Raymond White, Jr. “She just did her thing. She didn’t understand what she had accomplished. I don’t know that she understood her significance, or place in history.”

Cheryl is survived by her brother Raymond White, Jr.; nephews Raymond White III, Christopher Scott and Luciano White; niece Nikki White; great-nieces Jocelyn White and Sheena White; great-nephew Raymond White IV; and countless racetrack friends that were her extended family.

“Cheryl is a true legend and will be missed terribly by all who love her,” said Raymond. “We are extremely saddened and heartbroken beyond comprehension to have lost Cheryl. She has been taken home by God to join our mother and father, Doris and Raymond White Sr.”

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