Racing Against the Odds

Racing Against the Odds: Larry Demeritte Makes History as First Black Derby Trainer in 35 Years

Defying the Odds: A Trailblazer’s Journey

For the first time in 35 years, a Black trainer will have a horse in the Kentucky Derby. Lexington-based trainer Larry Demeritte is set to make history on Saturday at the 150th Kentucky Derby. At over 70 years old, Demeritte’s passion for his job remains unwavering.

“I just have a love for these horses and the challenge they put you through to see if you can get the best out of them,” Demeritte said.

The veteran trainer and his three-year-old gray colt, West Saratoga, are preparing for the biggest race, the Kentucky Derby. Demeritte is the first Black trainer in the Run for the Roses since 1989.

Representing the Caribbean: A Source of Pride

Demeritte’s journey to the Derby is a source of immense pride for the Caribbean community. The Bahamian native turned Kentuckian feels honored to represent his roots on such a prestigious stage.

“I feel really honored to be able to represent the Caribbean. That is the coolest thing for me to represent my country and all the islands for something positive,” Demeritte said.

A Perfect Fit: Embracing the Thoroughbred Capital

Demeritte’s interest in horse training began in the Bahamas with his father. He moved to the United States in the 1970s and quickly settled in Kentucky, the thoroughbred capital of the world. It has been the perfect fit for his passion and expertise.

“I’ve been blessed quite a bit by being in Kentucky. I’ve met really good people, the horse sales; they always say people come from all over the world to buy horses in Kentucky. I don’t need to go nowhere else,” Demeritte said.

Overcoming Adversity: A Remarkable Resilience

Demeritte’s journey to the Derby is a testament to his remarkable resilience. Despite being diagnosed with bone cancer in 1996 and a rare organ disease, he has defied the odds. In 2018, doctors gave him six months to live, but he’s still here, waking up at 5 a.m. to train the horses he loves and says keeps him going along with his faith.

“Early day? That’s every day, besides Sunday. I don’t train on Sundays, that’s my day off, that’s my church day,” Demeritte said.

A Bargain Buy: Qualifying for the Derby

West Saratoga qualified for the Derby by finishing second in the Grade 3 Jeff Ruby Stakes in March at Turfway Park. Demeritte purchased the horse for its owner for $11,000 at a Keeneland auction in 2022, proving that champions can come from unexpected places.