Maryland looks to fill empty Cup with respect State's best only long shots in jet-set Breeders' field

October 30, 1992|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Staff Writer

HALLANDALE, Fla. -- Janice Murray calls the Marylanders at the Breeders' Cup "the invisible people."

Even though her husband, Larry, and fellow trainer Bill Donovan have a couple of the best horses in Maryland, they are Breeders' Cup long shots, lost at Gulfstream Park in a sea of Euro-American thoroughbred champions and the celebrity jet-setters that own and trail them.

"We were second in the Champagne [Stakes at Belmont Park, an important 2-year-old race], but no one comes to interview us, like we don't even exist," Mrs. Murray said. "It doesn't bother my husband. In fact, he prefers it that way. But it just seems Maryland horses get no respect, no matter what they do."

One television commentator referred to the Murray-trained Secret Odds as "a faint-hearted sprinter" after he was passed in the Belmont stretch by the Champagne winner, Sea Hero, one of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile favorites.

"But our horse didn't chuck it," Mr. Murray said. "He posted some pretty quick early fractions on an off-track and Kent Desormeaux, who rode him, said he can run all day."

Desormeaux is committed to the California colt, River Special, in the Juvenile, but Murray came up with a pretty decent replacement, Gary Stevens, the former national riding champion who has won both the Kentucky Derby and a Breeders' Cup race.

Secret Odds gets Lasix for the first time "and needs a rider who can get him to break [well]," Mr. Murray said.

The horse has such a placid disposition he seems half asleep even in the starting gate, but can leave like a comet if the rider is prepared.

Secret Odds is the lone Maryland-bred in the Breeders' Cup and is sired by Secreto, the English Derby winner who stood in Kentucky at Calumet Farm but has now been exported to Japan.

Howard and Sondra Bender, principal owners of Glade Valley Farm near Frederick and one of only a few Marylanders who operate a large private thoroughbred stable, bred and race the colt.

Larry Murray, who grew up on Long Island and started out as a hotwalker for the Phipps family stable during school vacations, managed Glade Valley for 11 years after he married Janice, who was raised in Frederick County. When the Benders' former trainer, Marvin Moncrief, died four years ago, Murray, 39, took over training the outfit.

Even though visitors have been sparse at the Murray barn, it is going to be hard to miss the Maryland-based filly, Diamond Duo, on Breeders' Cup day.

Without question, the Donovan-trained filly will be the only horse in any of the races wearing a hot pink shadow roll, the fuzzy sheepskin bridle attachment that serves as a noseband.

Diamond Duo's owner, Harriet Finkelstein, a charming, enthusiastic grandmother who looks 20 years younger than she is, thinks her filly looks pretty in pink.

Diamond Duo wears hot pink leg bandages. Finkelstein's silks are purple and pink.

"They were picked out by my granddaughter, Nicole," she said.

And Finkelstein wears a lucky white sweater, with three figures of Diamond Duo wearing purple and pink silks, that were knitted by Donna Bradley Brown, one of her fellow Pimlico horse owners.

Finkelstein lives in Pikesville, with her husband David, a business partner of John Werner Kluge, the Metromedia communications mogul widely known as one of America's richest men.

Surprisingly, Kluge, who has spent millions acquiring thoroughbreds for his Morven Stud stable, has no Breeders' Cup entrants.

It is Finkelstein, who purchased Diamond Duo as a 2-year-old for $11,000 and sold half of her to her friend Lillian Solomon, who has a horse running tomorrow for a $1 million Breeders' Cup purse.

"This is a dream come true for everybody involved," Mrs. Finkelstein said. "We're all part of one big family, from Bill and Donna Donovan, who train and manage the horse; to Jeff Warehime, the groom; to Tommy Turner, our jockey."

Mrs. Finkelstein acknowledged that Diamond Duo faces a tough field in the Breeders' Cup Distaff. But already her "diamond in the rough" filly has earned nearly $300,000 and a chance to compete with champions.

"Win, lose or draw," she said.

"This filly is always a winner with me. It is just an honor to be here.

"I was talking with Wayne Lukas [who has had 10 Breeders' Cup winners]. And even he said he is still in awe every time he comes to run in these races."

Breeders Cup

6*

When: Tomorrow, first post 1:50 p.m.

Where: Gulfstream Park, Hallandale, Fla.

What: The ninth annual event features races in seven divisions worth $10 million in purses, ranging from the $1 million Breeders' Cup Sprint to the $3 million Classic.

TV: NBC (channels 2, 4), 1:30 p.m.

Simulcast: Laurel and Pimlico will carry all seven races.

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