Saturday, May 2, 2015

It's Derby Day!

How many jockeys can you name who won the Kentucky Derby three times? Isaac Murphy did.

PERFECT TIMING: How Isaac Murphy Became One of the World’s Greatest Jockeys,  by Patsi B. Trollinger, paintings by Jerome Lagarrigue, Benjamin Press, 2011 (soft cover); first published in hard cover by Viking in 2006.

Everything in Isaac Murphy’s life is embodied in the title chosen by author Patsi B. Trollinger. If Isaac had been born twenty years earlier, he would have raced as a slave rider and his owner would have collected his winnings. If he had been born twenty years later, Jim Crow was beginning to rear his ugly head and Isaac might not have been allowed to ride with white riders.

And then there was his incredible timing with horses. Isaac knew how to concentrate. In his head he ticked off the seconds of each race. He knew where he and the horse beneath him were supposed to be when. As news of his talent spread, demand grew. He won…and won. But it didn’t change who he was.

No cheating. No fighting. No swearing. Ride every race as if it is the most important one ever. These were the rules Isaac lived by.

Handsomely illustrated by the paintings of Jerome Lagarrigue, this carefully researched and well written biography fits neatly into the call for “diverse books.” It has been on some book shelves for 9 years. It’s time to bring a book like this back into the light so more readers can enjoy it. What better time of year than Derby time?

The author lives in Danville, Kentucky, not far from the first track where Isaac Murphy raced.  

Kentuckians in all corners of the world will gather around a TV set somewhere this afternoon to sing, “My Old Kentucky Home” just before the 141st Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs in Louisville. The legend of Isaac Murphy is part of that history.    

Hillview School Library