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Isaac Burns Murphy
This date marks the birth of Isaac Burns Murphy in 1861. He was a Black jockey.
Murphy was born in Fayette County, Kentucky. He was part of an abundance of Black jockeys in the history of horse racing. Black jockeys rode fourteen of the fifteen horses in the first Kentucky Derby. The horse racing sport was built with the talents of Black people whose jobs typically included trainer, jockey, and (often) owner. One extraordinary jockey in this history was Issac Burns Murphy.
He first worked as an exercise boy at Lexington stables and acquired his first race mount in 1875 at the age of fourteen as a replacement rider. Murphy won that race! Soon the talented Murphy dominated the sport of horse racing. In 1879, he won a record thirty-five of seventy-five races he entered. He won forty-nine of fifty-one starts at Saratoga in 1882, and on several days he rode winners in every race.
Murphy's abilities earned him the best mounts of his era. He soared to victory in three Kentucky Derbies, first in 1884 aboard Buchanan, again in 1890 on Riley, and in 1891 atop Kingman. With this feat, Murphy became the first back-to-back and three-time Kentucky Derby winner! He retired in 1892 to become a horse trainer. He achieved a record 628 wins in 1,412 races during the fifteen seasons he rode.
Murphy died in 1896 and was belatedly inducted into the Jockey's Hall of Fame at Saratoga in 1955. His body was re-interred at the Kentucky Horse Park in Fayette County in 1977.
The African American Desk Reference
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
Copyright 1999 The Stonesong Press Inc. and
The New York Public Library, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Pub.