Many consider Isaac Murphy the greatest American jockey of all time. The son of a former slave, Murphy rose to prominence in a field that was dominated by African American jockeys at the time. By his own account Murphy won 44% of his races. Only 34.5% can be verified in chart books from the era, but it's likely that some of Murphy's races were not covered in the chart books. Either way, Murphy set a standard that no other jockey has met.
Isaac Murphy won with more than a third of his mounts year after year. He won the Kentucky Derby three times, the Latonia Derby five times, and four of the first five runnings of the American Derby, once the richest 3-year-old race in America.
Not only was Murphy known for his skill on horseback but also for his honesty and loyalty. He once refused to let champion Falsetto lose the 1879 Kenner Stakes, even though gamblers enticed him with bribes.
Among others, Murphy rode Emperor of Norfolk, Kingston, Firenze, and Salvator. Aboard Salvator in the 1890 Suburban he defeated Snapper Garrison and Tenney in a historic match.
Isaac Murphy also owned and trained horses during his career. He died of pneumonia at age 36 in 1896.
|Awards and Achievements
First jockey elected to the Hall of Fame
Rode 40% winners in 1886
First jockey to win three Kentucky Derbys
Inducted in the Hall of Fame in 1955
Isaac Murphy was the first jockey to win three Kentucky Derbys and was the first jockey to be elected to the Hall of Fame in 1955.
Murphy and Salvator defeat Tenny
© J. C. Hemment