Isaac Burns Murphy was a legend in his own time before being forced out of the sport when horse racing became a big business and winning jockeys were able to earn significant pay. Some horseracing aficionados argue that Murphy was the greatest jockey of all time. While this claim is subjective, there is widespread agreement that Murphy was the greatest of his era.
When Murphy was racing, the position of jockey was not one of prestige. For this reason, slaves were often used as jockeys prior to 1865 and poor whites and African Americans took the job in the era of Reconstruction. Recognizing that large sums were riding on the outcome of a race, Murphy made sure that he was a good bet. Through his talent and skill, his horses won the at least a third of the 1400 races he competed in. He also won the Kentucky Derby three times. For a short time, Murphy became the highest paid athlete of the era. The fame and fortune would not last long, as black jockeys were forced from the sport.
With the Garden centered on Muphy's career and the legacy of many others, its founders hope that it will become a place of knowledge and reflection about the history of the sport and its connections to the larger history of the nation. The organizers hope to create several monuments to other jockeys, including other African Americans and minorities who contributed to the sport but were seldom recognized. Future exhibits will include tacks, grooms, and trainers. The garden will also have a place for art performance, as well as a playground for children.