Isaac Burns Murphy

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For the American politician, see Isaac Murphy.
Isaac Burns Murphy
Isaac B. Murphy, c.1885
Occupation Jockey
Born January 1, 1861
Clark County, Kentucky, United States
Died February 12, 1896
Career wins 628 (or 530: see text)
Major racing wins

Clark Handicap (1879, 1884, 1885, 1890)
Travers Stakes (1879)
Kentucky Oaks (1884)
Illinois Derby (1884)
American Derby (1884, 1885, 1886, 1888)
Latonia Derby (1883, 1884, 1885, 1886, 1891)
Champion Stakes (1886, 1890)
Brooklyn Derby (1888)
Jerome Handicap (1889)
Freehold Stakes (1890)
Suburban Handicap (1890)
Gazelle Handicap (1892)

American Classic Race wins:
Kentucky Derby (1884, 1890, 1891)
United States Racing Hall of Fame (1955)
Isaac Murphy Award
National Jockey's Hall of Fame (1956)
Isaac Murphy Handicap at Arlington Park
Significant horses
Buchanan, Emperor of Norfolk, Falsetto,
Firenze, Kingman, Kingston, Leonatus, Riley,
Salvator, Silver Cloud

Isaac Burns Murphy (January 1, 1861 - February 12, 1896) was an African-American Hall of Fame jockey, who is considered one of the greatest riders in American Thoroughbred horse racing history. Murphy won three Kentucky Derbies.

Early life[edit]

Isaac Burns was born in Clark County, Kentucky. His father served in the Union army in the Civil War, until his death at Camp Nelson]. After his father's death, Burns' family moved to Lexington, where they lived with Burns' grandfather Green Murphy. When he became a jockey at age 14, he changed his last name to Murphy in honor of his grandfather.


Isaac Murphy rode in eleven Kentucky Derbies, winning three times: on Buchanan in 1884, Riley in 1890, and Kingman in 1891. Kingman was owned by Jacobin Stables (co-owners, Preston Kinzea Stone and Dudley Allen) and trained by Dudley Allen, and is the first horse co-owned by an African-American to win the Derby. Murphy is the only jockey to have won the Kentucky Derby, the Kentucky Oaks, and the Clark Handicap in the same year (1884). He was called the "Colored Archer," a reference to Fred Archer, a prominent English jockey at the time.

According to his own calculations, Murphy won 628 of his 1,412 starts—a 44% victory rate which has never been equaled, and a record about which Hall of Fame jockey Eddie Arcaro said: "There is no chance that his record of winning will ever be surpassed. [1] By a later calculation of incomplete records, his record stands at 530 wins in 1,538 rides, which still makes his win rate 34%.[2] At its creation in 1955, Isaac Burns Murphy was the first jockey to be inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.[3]

Murphy died of heart failure in 1896 in Lexington, Kentucky, and over time his unmarked grave in African Cemetery No. 2 was forgotten. During the 1960s, Frank B. Borries Jr., a University of Kentucky press specialist, spent three years searching for the grave site. In 1967, Murphy was reinterred at the old Man o' War burial site.[1] With the building of the Kentucky Horse Park, his remains were moved to be buried again next to Man o' War at the entrance to the park.

Since 1995, the National Turf Writers Association has given the Isaac Murphy Award to the jockey with the highest winning percentage for the year in North American racing (from a minimum of 500 mounts).



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