First class of Isaac Murphy Thoroughbred Hall of Fame honored

Published 10:30 am Monday, June 24, 2024

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Dharan Mason shared a profound thought last Saturday evening at the Leeds Center for the Arts.

“Being the first Black person and being the first person to achieve something are two different things,” Mason said.

His words perfectly summarized the career of jockey Isaac Murphy, who was not the first Black man to win the Kentucky Derby; that honor belongs to Oliver Lewis, but Murphy was the first man to dominate the sport.

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“Isaac Murphy was not the first, but he was the greatest,” Mason said.

Such was Murphy’s greatness that he served as the namesake for the Isaac Murphy Thoroughbred Hall of Fame, which honors Black achievers in the horse racing industry and those who helped them excel and recently celebrated its inaugural class.

This year’s honorees were Edward DeBartolo, Lester McKeever, Ted Bassett, Barry Gordy, Dick Broadbent, Fred Precious, Herb Luster, Ben Huffman, James Jackson, Larry Demeritte, George W. Jones and Jim Cottrell.

Dick Broadbent founded the Bloodstock Research Information Services and was an innovator in getting pedigree and racing information to fans over the Internet.

Larry Demeritte was only the second Black trainer to have. a horse run in the Kentucky Derby. His 2024 entry, West Saratoga, came in 12th.

And while each honoree helped shape the horse racing industry in some way, their achievements can be tied back to Murphy and other Black Americans who excelled in the field to make it the successful sport it is today.

Murphy was born in 1861, purportedly in Clark County, and won his first Kentucky Derby at 16. He would go on to win the Run for the Roses two more times and was the first to win the back-to-back race. Murphy would go on to become one of the most celebrated jockeys of all time and was elected into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1955. His remains are buried at the Kentucky Horse Park in Fayette County.

There is hope that a permanent hall of fame will eventually be built in Clark County.

“We want to make Winchester and Clark County a place that is included in the tourism that happens during Derby time. This is the home of Isaac Murphy and we should be apart of all the other events that are going on,” said the hall of fame’s president, Jennifer Mason.

The hall’s founder, Wallace Howard, said it could become a boon for the community.

“Winchester has a chance to be so positive through the homeplace of Isaac Murphy to help make horse racing become great and help make Winchester a tourist attraction…where people can come and see the history of not just Winchester, but Isaac Murphy,” Howard said.

The night also celebrated the accomplishments of ordinary people who make Winchester an extraordinary place to live: the Winchester Extraordinaires.

They were Willie Hopkins, Marvin O. King Jr., Yeremiah Bell, Buzz Burnham, Larry Gay, Tommy Lynch, Scott Osborne, Joe Chenault, Paul Howard, Sherman Charles, Martha Miller, Joyce Ann Morton, Wilbert Hackett, Flora Shelby, Gene Culton, Charles Scott, Tommy Paisley, Alvin Paisley, James Paisley, Jessica Durphy, Stacy Lyles, Deatra Newell, Danny Nutter, the Shackleford Elks Lodge, Rhonda Lynn Mason and Kenneth Huhley.