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Lexington celebrates life of legendary jockey Isaac Murphy with week of special events


Murphy’s career spanned from the mid-1870s through the mid-1890s; he rode in 11 Kentucky Derbies, winning three of them. By his account, he won 44 percent of his 1,412 races, a victory rate never equaled in 120 years.

Born in Frankfort in 1861, Murphy and his mother moved to his grandfather’s home in Lexington when his father died as a Union Army soldier during the Civil War. Growing up entranced by the heritage of Thoroughbred racing in the Bluegrass, Murphy raced for the first time when was only 14 years old.

Murphy is the only jockey to have won the Kentucky Derby, the Kentucky Oaks, and the Clark Handicap in the same year (1884). In 1955, Murphy was the first jockey to be inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. He lived his entire adult life in Lexington, racing, training and breeding the Thoroughbreds he loved; he died of pneumonia in 1896.

“Celebrating Isaac Murphy Week” – Oct. 19-24 – honors the legendary 19th-century African-American jockey and includes a number of free event, including:

“The Prince of Jockeys:
The Life of Isaac Burns Murphy”

A public talk by Emory University Professor Pellom McDaniels III
Tuesday, Oct. 20, 6:30 p.m.
Lyric Theatre and Cultural Center

Kentucky Horse Park unveils new
Isaac Burns Murphy headstone,

with tributes to Murphy and Kentucky’s other African-American horsemen
Thursday, Oct. 22, 2 p.m.
Man o’ War -Isaac Burns Murphy Memorial, Kentucky Horse Park

Isaac Murphy
Memorial Art Garden

Unveiling of interpretive panels
Thursday, Oct. 22, 3:30 p.m.
East Third Street at Midland Avenue, Lexington

“I Dedicate This Ride”
by Frank X Walker

A reception, at 5:30 p.m., highlights the accomplishments of Frank X. Walker, Professor Pellom McDaniels III, the Black Turf Project, the Mustang Troops and the Isaac Murphy Memorial Art Garden Advisory Board
Performance: 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 23,
Lyric Theatre
(Pay-what-you-can admission)

Murphy Family Memorial Dedication
Saturday, Oct. 24, 10 a.m.
African Cemetery No.2, Murphy’s former gravesite

“I Dedicate This Ride”
Saturday, Oct. 24, 7 p.m.
Lyric Theatre

“Prince of Jockeys: The Life of Isaac Burns Murphy,”
exhibition of photographs, illustrations and texts curated by McDaniels
Through Dec. 11
The Lyric Theatre Gallery

All events are open to the public.

From UKNow

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