Isaac Burns Murphy

Isaac Burns Murphy (HM28QT)

Location: Lexington, KY 40508 Fayette County
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Country: United States of America
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N 38° 2.572', W 84° 28.917'

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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

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.
HM NumberHM28QT
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Sunday, June 24th, 2018 at 10:03pm PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)16S E 720966 N 4213564
Decimal Degrees38.04286667, -84.48195000
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 38° 2.572', W 84° 28.917'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds38° 2' 34.32" N, 84° 28' 55.02" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)859
Which side of the road?Marker is on the right when traveling West
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 577 E Third St, Lexington KY 40508, US
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