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The Isaac Murphy Memorial Art Garden unveiled its first permanent art piece during a public ceremony on Monday, June 19. The 16-foot-tall stainless steel sculpture titled “My Home is a Horse and Track” pays homage to the racing legend and the garden’s namesake, Isaac Murphy, a black jockey who dominated the sport in the late 1800s. Murphy’s home was located on this site of the memorial art garden at the intersection of East Third Street, Midland Avenue and Winchester Road. The garden and art installation is the culmination of a broad community effort launched in 2009 by the Blue Grass Community Foundation as the downtown trailhead for the Legacy Trail, and part of an effort to revitalize Lexington East End, which was home to the Kentucky Association, one of Lexington’s first important racetracks.
The steel sculpture features two intersecting horses at the base, one grazing and the other racing. A central mast supports a portrait of Murphy encircled by a horseshoe and topped by a horses tail blowing in the breeze. The two-ton sculpture was designed by artists Tiffany and Neal Bociek of San Diego, California and fabricated in Lexington by sculptor Andrew Light and his team at Material Alchemy Studios. Tiffany Bociek explained, “We wanted it to say, ‘This is Isaac Murphy, this is his place, this is his home, that was his track, there was so much that happened in this place.’”
During his 20-year racing career, Murphy won the Kentucky Derby three times, the first jockey to do so. His third win came aboard Kingman in 1891, setting a record that would stand for 32 years when it was matched by Earl Sande on Zev in 1923. During his career Murphy earned 530 wins. He was the first jockey inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame at Saratoga. He died of pneumonia at the age of 34 and is buried at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.
The Issac Murphy public sculpture was made possible through the efforts of Blue Grass Community Foundation and LexArts with the support of Keeneland Breeder’s Cup, Together Lexington, Community Ventures Corporation, Kip Cornett, Thomas Tolliver, Friends of the Isaac Murphy Memorial Art Garden, and Lexington Fayette Urban County Government.