Isaac Burns Murphy was born to America Murphy in Clark County, Kentucky in January of 1861. After emancipation and the death of his father in the Civil War, Isaac and his mother moved to Lexington where he received his first formal education. The African American community, including America, realized the importance of an education and strong moral and religious convictions if their children were to become successful adults.
When Isaac was 13, America developed tuberculosis. Realizing that her death was imminent and that her son would need a profession, she secured an apprenticeship for him with Thoroughbred breeders James T. Williams and Richard Owings. There, under the watchful eye of trainer and family friend, Eli Jordan, Isaac’s talent blossomed and his affinity for horses became evident. Aside from Isaac’s equestrian skills, Jordan also stressed the importance of being a good and honest man: traits that would set him apart from many of his racing counterparts, and allow him to become the greatest jockey in America and its most popular sports figure.
For more information regarding Isaac Murphy, we invite you to visit Lexington’s restored African Cemetery No. 2 at 419 East Seventh Street and the Isaac Murphy Memorial Art Garden at East Third Street and Midland Avenue, Lexington.
Isaac Murphy Racing Highlights
- First jockey inducted into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame
- 44% win record remains best of all-time
- First jockey to win three Kentucky Derbys (1884, 1890 and 1891)
- Won four American Derbys (1884 – 1886, 1888)
- Won five Latonia Derbys (1883 – 1886 and 1891)
- Riding Salvator, Murphy defeated Tenny in the famous 1890 Suburban Handicap