HARLEM — Harlem has one more reason to enjoy the mint juleps and fascinator hats on Kentucky Derby day.
St. Croix native Kevin Krigger will be the first black jockey to ride the race in 12 years when he mounts Goldencents at Churchill Downs on Saturday for "most exciting two minutes in sports."
In honor of the return of a black jockey to the derby, Lenox Avenue restaurant Settepani is holding a Harlem Kentucky Derby Party in true Southern style with mint juleps and broad-rimmed hats.
"Harlem's 1st Annual Kentucky Derby Party” will turn a two-minute race some 600 miles west of New York into a four-hour celebration right in the heart of Harlem.
"Historically, there have been many African-American jockeys, and their contributions have never really been recognized," said Leah Abraham, the restaurant's owner and one of the event organizers. "We wanted to do something honoring them."
When the first Kentucky Derby was raced in 1875, 13 out of the 15 jockeys riding that day were black. Over the next 28 years, more than half of the derby's winning jockeys were black. But there have been fewer African-American riders since the earlier part of last century.
Rounding out the Harlem event will be a presentation titled "Celebrating the Black Jockey” in honor of Krigger’s ride, which could earn him the historic title of the first black jockey to win the Kentucky Derby since 1902. The last black jockey to do so was Jimmy Winkfield, who nipped across the finish line first in both 1901 and 1902.
On race day, a large-screen viewing of the derby will be a backdrop to a scene straight out of Louisville, with guests sipping mint juleps and dining on racetrack-inspired dishes, such as macaroni and cheese with lobster and truffle oil.
"We really want to create that clubhouse feel," Abraham said.
There will also be contests for the best hat and the best-dressed couple, as well as prizes for event-goers who correctly guess the winning jockey and horse.
Entrance into the event, which runs from 4 to 8 p.m., is free, but food and drink must be purchased. For more information visit the event's website.