Celebrating A Legend

Isaac Burns Murphy (January 2,1861 - February 12, 1896) was an African-American Hall of Fame jockey. The official Kentucky Derby website and the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame say that "Isaac Murphy is considered one of the greatest race riders in American history."

Isaac Burns was born in Bourbon County, Kentucky. His father served in the Union army in the Civil War, until his death at Camp Nelson as a soldier in the United States Colored Troop, Company C, 114th infantry. After Burns' father's death, his family moved to Lexington, where they lived with Burns' grandparents Annie and Green Murphy. He rode under the name of I. Burns when he became a jockey at age 14, but changed his last name to Murphy in September 1876 to honor his grandfather.

Between 1877 and 1893, Isaac Murphy competed in eleven Kentucky Derbys, becoming the first jockey to win three Derbys: "Buchanan" in 1884, "Riley" in 1890, and "Kingman" in 1891. "Kingman" was owned and trained by Dudley Allen and is the only horse owned by an African-American to win the Derby.

As well, he is the only jockey to have won the Kentucky Derby, the Kentucky Oaks, and the Clark Handicap all in the same year (1884). Considered one of the great jockeys in American history, Murphy was dubbed the "Colored Archer," a reference to Fred Archer, a prominent English jockey at the time.

Murphy won 628 of his 1,412 starts, a 44% victory rate that has never been equalled 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] On its creation, Isaac Burns Murphy was the fhe first jockey to be inducted in the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.

Isaac Murphy died of pneumonia in 1896 in Lexington, Kentucky and over time his unmarked grave was forgotten until 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 but with the building of the Kentucky Horse Park, his remains were moved again to be buried next to Man o' War at the Kentucky Horse Park's entrance

Click here to View the Isaac Murphy Burial Article from 1967Legacy_files/Isaac%20Burial%20Article.jpg
Click here to View the KY Derby Race Summary of 1893Legacy_files/KY%20Derby%201893%20-%20Pepper%20%20Isaac1.pdf






IMMAG Board Members

Isaac Murphy Memorial Art Garden

c/o Blue Grass Community Foundation

250 West Main Street Suite 1220

Lexington, KY 40507

Help us commemorate the legacy of Isaac Murphy and others by making a donation of any size.


IMMAG board meets the 3rd Tuesday of each month at 5:30 - 7:30 p.m.

at Urban League: 148 DeWeese

Open to the public.

Read More about the 
Isaac Murphy Memorial Art Garden


David Cozart

Vice President

Thomas Tolliver


Pat Gerhard 



Tim Guthrie



Dave Melanson

Emily Edgington

Graves Dickey

Jennifer Shah

Jim Embry

P.G. Peeples

Lee Helmers


1st District Councilman

Chris Ford / Tiffany A Tatum