Kansas City, Missouri, U.S.
|Died||March 17, 1917|
|Career wins||Not found|
|Major racing wins|
American Classic Race wins:
Kentucky Derby (1892)
|Leading rider at Churchill Downs (1893, Fall)|
Alonzo "Lonnie" Clayton (1876 - March 17, 1917) was an American jockey in Thoroughbred horse racing described by author Edward Hotaling, as "one of the great riders of the New York circuit all through the 1890s" and who holds the record as the youngest jockey to ever win the Kentucky Derby.
An African American, Lonnie Clayton was born in Kansas City, Missouri, one of the nine children of Robert and Evaline Clayton. At age ten, his family moved to North Little Rock, Arkansas where he attended school and worked as a gofer for a hotel and as a shoeshine boy to help support his family. According to the Central Arkansas Library System's Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture, a correspondent for the Thoroughbred Record wrote in 1896 that Clayton attended school and was considered "exceptionally bright."
At age twelve the diminutive Lonnie Clayton left home and made his way north to Chicago's Washington Park Race Track where his brother Albertus was a jockey for prominent Thoroughbred horse racing stable owner, Lucky Baldwin. Lonnie Clayton was given a job as a stablehand and exercise rider for the Baldwin stable then the following year he moved east to the Clifton Race Track in New Jersey where in 1890 the fourteen-year-old began his professional riding career. Immediately successful, in 1891 at Morris Park Racetrack in The Bronx, New York, Clayton won the important Champagne Stakes aboard Bashford Manor Stable's two-year-old colt, Azra. On May 11, 1892 he rode Azra to victory in the Kentucky Derby which at age fifteen made him the youngest jockey in history to ever win the Derby. Clayton and Azra followed up their Derby success with victories in the Clark Handicap and the Travers Stakes.
At Monmouth Park in New Jersey Clayton won the 1893 Monmouth Handicap and went on to win the fall riding title at Churchill Downs. One of the leading money winners on the East Coast racing circuit during the 1890s, he won races from New York to California. He captured back-to-back runnings of the Kentucky Oaks in 1894 and 1895, the latter a year in which he won 144 races and finished in the money sixty percent of the time. In 1895 he won the Arkansas Derby and in 1896 finished third in the Preakness Stakes aboard the filly, Intermission.
However, by the start of the 20th century, racism began to raise its ugly head and opportunities to ride soon vanished as stable owners switched to using white riders only. Within a few years, African-American jockeys, who had dominated racing for centuries and who had played a major role in bringing Thoroughbred racing to the forefront of American sport, were forced out of the business. Since 1909, no African-American jockey has ridden a winner in any major American Graded stakes race. An 1896 report and a 1900 report in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle stated that Clayton planned to join other black jockeys riding in Europe but no records have been found to confirm he actually went there.
Lonnie Clayton's success had allowed him to acquire a property in Little Rock, Arkansas upon which he competed construction of a new home in early 1895. Described by the Arkansas Gazette as the "finest house on the North Side," it was designed in the fashion of Queen Anne Style architecture. An astute businessman, in 1897 Clayton also built a commercial building at 617-619 Main Street in Little Rock, which stood until about 1980. However, denied the right to earn a living in racing, he was forced to sell his investment property and his home. His residence is today known as Engelberger House and since 1990 has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Clayton lived his last few years in California where he worked as a hotel bellhop. He died at age forty-one on March 17, 1917 of chronic pulmonary tuberculosis. He is buried at Evergreen Cemetery in Los Angeles.
- "Kansas Jockey won derby, was forced out of racing", Wichita Eagle and Kansas.com, April 19, 2010.
- Hotaling, Edward. The Great Black Jockeys (1999) Prima Lifestyles ISBN 978-0-7615-1437-4
- Biography for Alonzo Clayton at the Central Arkansas Library System's Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture
- Alonzo Clayton profile at the Paris-Bourbon County Public Library
- Lonnie Clayton/ Engelberger House at the North Little Rock History Commission
- Article at the North Little Rock History Commission titled The Jockey and the Jeweler