When the choice was placed before her to choose between pursuing a degree in mathematics at Bowling Green on a scholarship and a career in horse racing, she opted for the latter. Cheryl White grew up around horses as a child. Since her formative years, she was clear she wanted to be a lady jockey.
She had a strong affinity for riding horses and always wanted to be the best. She reportedly told herself that if male jockeys could make money riding horses, she would like to be in the same space as a girl jockey.
Her father, Raymond White, was a jockey in Omaha, Nebraska in 1924 and rode in many cities including Cleveland, Chicago, and Cincinnati. White received her training in horse riding from her father. Her father received his license to ride horses in 1930 at Washington Park in Chicago while training horses also.
Before Raymond White did his final ride at Coney Island in Cincinnati in 1934, he had two horses at Kentucky Derby. White’s mother, Doris, also bred mares and owned three horses that competed in the Thistledown. Inadvertently, White was surrounded by horses and learned the business of riding naturally.
She was given her first pony when she was five years old. It was at the same age she learned how to guide horses. Her father recalled how White wanted to always be a jockey as a child, indicating that, he did not find it surprising when she bought her own horse.
White told the Star Beacon in 2007 that she probably learned how to ride horses before she started walking as a child. Her dream of becoming a colossus in the jockey space was boosted when Kathy Kusner won a legal battle to become the first licensed female jockey.
On June 15, 1971, White competed with her father’s horse to become the first Black female jockey in the United States. The magazine, Jet, on July 29, 1971, made her the cover girl one month after she received her license, as reported by andscape.com.
In September of the same year, she rode her father’s horse to victory at Waterford Park to become the first Black woman in American thoroughbred racing history to finish in the first position. White earned $35 dollars for every mount she made including an additional 10 percent of her horse’s earnings for finishing first.
By the time her 21-year-old career came to an end, she had won 750 races and made approximately $762,624. The only race she couldn’t compete in was the Triple Crown.
White was part of the 18 people recognized at the Bluegrass Black Business Association’s African-Americans in Thoroughbred Racing Industry Awards in 1994.
She made history by becoming the first female jockey to win two races on the same day in different states — one at Thistledown in the afternoon and the other at Waterford Park in the evening. It is reported by andscape.com that one of her best performances in her sophomore year of racing was when she took first in a 14-horse field, $7,500 Boots and Bows Handicap in Atlantic City, New Jersey, that included top female riders Diane Crump and Patti Barton.
White died of a heart attack in 2019, at age 65.