LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ/Press Release) – A director from New York is bringing the story of African-American jockeys to life in a new film.
Derek Vitatoe came to visit the Commonwealth to scout out potential filming locations for his next major motion picture, “Jocko.”
Some locations included Keeneland, area horse farms, Ashland and Spindletop.
Vitatoe has directed the short film “Fidelity” in 2015 and the feature film “Forsaken Son” in 2020. “Jocko” is set to be a period piece focused on the story of a young black man’s struggle to break the color barrier and pursue his ambition of being a first-class jockey amid the racial hostilities of the late 19th century.
“‘Jocko’ initially started as a passion project out of my love for horses and black people in general,” said Vitatoe. “However, after speaking with and meeting so many wonderful people in Kentucky who share a similar passion in getting this untold story told, that passion has now become a responsibility in making sure the stories of forgotten Black Jockeys are shared with the world.”
African American Jockeys and horsemen once dominated the sport of thoroughbred racing but now they are few and far between. Of the first 28 winning jockeys of the Kentucky Derby, 15 were African American. By the early 1900’s, those same African-American equestrians were forced out of racing by Jim Crow laws that enforced segregation.
For Vitatoe, this film is significant not only for telling horse racing’s history, but also for representation.
“Not many stories, if any, have been told. Especially from a feature film perspective,” remarked Vitatoe. “A lot of things that you find are told in documentaries, very fact-based. And I thought that I could bring entertainment to the big screen and that’s why I think ‘Jocko’ is important.”
Filming for “Jocko” is set to begin next fall.
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