The Heart of the Turf: Racing’s Black Pioneers

through August 2023

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Phoenix Rising Lex preserves, promotes and honors the vast contributions of African American horsemen in establishing the Bluegrass as the Horse Capital of the World through educational, public and social activities.


  • Celebrated Black Farriers and awarded the Dr. Anne Butler History Award to Lisa Higgins-Hord.
  • Co-hosted the 2nd annual “A Life With the Horses” event on September 25, 2021, at the African Cemetery #2. We honored four Black horsemen and awarded the third Dr. Anne Butler History Award to Becky Ryder.
  • Hosted the inaugural From the Front Porch Jazz Series at Issac Murphy Memorial Art Garden.
  • We participated in our first ever Good Giving Challenge in 2020 and did again in 2021.
  • Co-hosted “A Life With the Horses” event at the African Cemetery #2 on September 19th, 2020, when we honored five Black horsemen as well as awarded the second Dr. Anne Butler History Award to Reinette Jones.
  • Hosted our 3rd annual Phoenix Festival in 2019 at the Isaac Murphy Memorial Art Garden. Themed Honoring the Past, Inspiring the Future, honorees were the late Thoroughbred owner and trainer, and civil rights activist Oscar Dishman, Jr., and entrepreneur and educator Jeremy Reese, founder and operator of Frankie’s Corner, a program to teach inner city youth the basics of working in the horse industry. We also highlighted the historic 1891 Kentucky Derby, the first and only to be captured by an African American jockey, trainer and owner. Past recipients include the successful Black jockey, James Long, Gene Carter, and Man o’ War’s last two grooms, Will Harbut and Cunningham Graves.
  • Attained our 501(c)(3), non-profit IRS status in January 2017
  • Sponsored a week-long visit to Lexington, including a free lecture at the Lyric Theater, by Dr. Katherine Mooney, professor of history at Florida State University, and author of the award-winning book, Race Horse Men: How Slavery and Freedom were Made at the Racetrack.
  • Reprinted 300 copies of “Racing Heritage; African American Trainers, Jockeys and the Kentucky Association Track,” Lexington’s only brochure exploring the history of the Kentucky Association track and the significance of its Black horsemen in the growth of the Bluegrass horse industry and Lexington’s historic East End neighborhood.
  • Supported the Charles Young Community Center, and sponsored ornaments for the community Christmas tree in Charles Young Park.
  • Supported and promoted the efforts of the International Museum of the Horse in their production of Central Kentucky’s only permanent African American museum exhibit, “Black Horsemen of the Kentucky Turf” at the Kentucky Horse Park
  • With the generous support of Hall Media, developed our logo, established a new email address, and social media presence, and our new Phoenix Rising Lex website. Hall Media also arranged for TV and radio interviews related to all functions mentioned.
  • Participated in Lexington’s “Roots and Heritage Festival.”