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Lexington in Fayette County, Kentucky — The American South (East South Central)
 

Isaac Burns Murphy

 
 
Isaac Burns Murphy Marker image. Click for full size.
By Cosmos Mariner, September 18, 2017
1. Isaac Burns Murphy Marker
Inscription.
One of the greatest jockeys in the history of American racing, Isaac Burns Murphy was born on a farm in the Bluegrass not far from Lexington in 1861. His parents were enslaved. His mother, America Murphy, was a domestic servant on the farm. His father, Jerry Skillman, a field hand on a nearby farm, enlisted In the Union Army during the Civil War and, under the name Jerry Burns, died a soldier at Camp Nelson in nearby Jessamine County in 1864.

At 13, living in Lexington with his mother, Murphy became an apprentice stable boy to leading trainer Eli Jordan. At 14, he rode his first winner as a Jockey at a country track in Crab Orchard, 50 miles south of Lexington. At 15, in 1876, he was winning races at the Kentucky Association, then only two blocks from here, and at the Louisville Jockey Club, later known as Churchill Downs, and his racing career accelerated. (That same year, likely to honor his maternal grandfather, he changed his last name from Burns to Murphy.)

In the next two decades, Murphy rose to national prominence. He was the first jockey to win three Kentucky Derbys — on Buchanan in 1884, Riley in 1890 and Kingman in 1891. He won four American Derbys and five Latonia Derbys. He won the Travers, the oldest major Thoroughbred stakes race in the country. His record In the most prestigious races
Marker detail: Isaac Murphy on Salvator in 1890 image. Click for full size.
2. Marker detail: Isaac Murphy on Salvator in 1890
In a celebrated 1890 match race at Sheepshead Bay in New York, Isaac Murphy rode the great Salvator to a record, photo-finish win over rival Tenny, ridden by famed white Jockey Edward “Snapper” Garrison. Henry Stull depicted the scene. The race was among the most talked about of its time, not least because it pitted the era’s best black jockey in America, Murphy, against the best white one, Garrison.
set him apart. He won 34.5 percent of his races according to official records and 44 percent by his own count — either an exceptional standard. In 1955, he became the first jockey elected to the National Museum of Racing's Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, New York.

Murphy's success earned him celebrity status and considerable income. He made up to $25,000 a year, and owned a string of Thoroughbreds and properties in Lexington, including a grand home that stood on this Art Garden site. He was a literate man, religious and a Mason, widely respected for his integrity, loyalty and quiet manner. But as he battled weight issues, health problems and riding setbacks — and as changes in racing and society were limiting opportunities for African Americans — his career waned. In 1895, his last year of riding, he had only 20 mounts and two wins. In 1896, at 35, he died of heart failure at his home in Lexington. More than 500 people attended his funeral. His grave, in African Cemetery No. 2 near here, was marked but neglected over time, and in 1978 his remains were reburied at the Kentucky Horse Park, next to those of Man o' War.
 
Location. 38° 2.572′ N, 84° 28.917′ W. Marker is in Lexington, Kentucky, in Fayette County. Marker is on East Third Street north of Midland Avenue (U.S.
Marker detail: Isaac Burns Murphy image. Click for full size.
3. Marker detail: Isaac Burns Murphy
"I am as proud of my calling as I am of my record, and I believe my life will be recorded a success, though the reputation I enjoy was earned in the stable and in the saddle." - Isaac Murphy
60), on the left when traveling east. Touch for map. Marker is located in the Isaac Murphy Memorial Art Garden. Marker is at or near this postal address: East 3rd Street & Midland Avenue, Lexington KY 40508, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Murphy House (a few steps from this marker); Isaac Murphy Memorial Art Garden Trailhead (a few steps from this marker); Isaac Murphy Memorial Art Garden (within shouting distance of this marker); George Washington (approx. 0.4 miles away); William S. Farish (approx. 0.4 miles away); John S. Knight (approx. 0.4 miles away); Lexington (approx. 0.4 miles away); Robert A. Alexander (approx. 0.4 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Lexington.
 
Related markers. Click here for a list of markers that are related to this marker. Isaac Burns Murphy
 
Also see . . .
1. Murphy, Isaac Burns (1861-1896). Murphy was the first American jockey elected to Racing’s Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, New York and only one of two black jockeys (Willie Simms is the other) to have received this honor. Isaac Murphy’s first Kentucky Derby win came May 27, 1884 at Churchill Downs. Two more victories would follow in 1890 and 1891. In 1884, Murphy also won the American Derby in Chicago,
Marker detail: Isaac Murphy Celebrating Salvator’s Victories image. Click for full size.
4. Marker detail: Isaac Murphy Celebrating Salvator’s Victories
Isaac Murphy at a celebration of Salvator’s victories at trainer Matt Byrnes' home near Eatontown, New Jersey, 1890
Illinois, at the time the most prestigious race in the nation. He would repeat this feat in 1885, 1886 and 1888. Throughout his career, Murphy rode 628 winners in his 1,412 mounts, including the three Kentucky Derby winners previously mentioned, four American Derby winners, and five Latonia Derby winners. Murphy has the best winning average in history to date with better than 34 percent. (Submitted on June 22, 2018, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.) 

2. Isaac Burns Murphy. Murphy grew up in Lexington, Kentucky, where his mother had moved the family after his father, a Union soldier, had died in a Confederate prisoner-of-war camp. Murphy began racing in 1875 and was one of the first jockeys to pace his mount for a charge down the homestretch – a technique soon described as the “grandstand finish.” He rode upright and urged his mounts on with words and a spur rather than the whip. His win of the Travers Stakes at Saratoga Springs in 1879 catapulted him to national fame. (Submitted on June 22, 2018, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.) 

3. 10 Facts About Isaac Burns Murphy. Isaac Burns Murphy was the first jockey to win three Kentucky Derbys and was the only jockey to win the Kentucky Oaks, Kentucky Derby, and the Clark Handicap all in the same year. This amazing feat was accomplished in 1884. Isaac Burns Murphy is considered the greatest Jockey of all time. He won over 44% (628 of 1,412) of his
Marker detail: An 1883 ad placed by Isaac Murphy in the <i>Kentucky Live Stock Record</i> image. Click for full size.
5. Marker detail: An 1883 ad placed by Isaac Murphy in the Kentucky Live Stock Record

First Class Jockey
I will make engagements to ride in the stakes for the coming racing season at Lexington, Louisville, Latonia, Chicago and Saratoga. I will be able to ride at 110 (possibly 107) pounds. My address until the beginning of Lexington races will be care of the Fleetwood Stables, Frankfort, KY. – Isaac Murphy
races which is a record that most experts agree will never be broken. The Isaac Murphy Award is given every year to the jockey that has the highest winning percentage by the National Turf Writers Association and the American Derby was renamed the Isaac Murphy Stakes (Chicago, IL) in 1997. (Submitted on June 22, 2018, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.) 
 
Categories. African AmericansSports
 
Isaac Burns Murphy Marker (<i>wide view; Isaac Murphy Memorial Art Garden in background</i>) image. Click for full size.
By Cosmos Mariner, September 18, 2017
6. Isaac Burns Murphy Marker (wide view; Isaac Murphy Memorial Art Garden in background)
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 24, 2018. This page originally submitted on June 22, 2018, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida. This page has been viewed 40 times since then. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. submitted on June 22, 2018, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida. • Andrew Ruppenstein was the editor who published this page.
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