Murrays hit pay dirt, then have celebration

Kentucky Derby notebook

Maryland farm owners purchased Our Emblem

Kentucky Derby

Horse Racing

May 05, 2002|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Shortly after War Emblem won the Kentucky Derby yesterday, the telephone rang at Murmur Farm in Harford County.

The person who answered, when asked whether Audrey or Allen Murray, the farm owners, were there, said: "They're in the middle of a celebration." When Audrey came to the phone, she said: "We're drinking champagne."

And why not? The Murrays struck pay dirt with Our Emblem, the stallion they bought in November from Claiborne Farm in Kentucky. After the Murrays brought the 11-year-old sire home, one son won the Illinois Derby and another son won the Arkansas Derby. Both ran in the Kentucky Derby.

The Arkansas winner, Private Emblem, finished 14th. But War Emblem, the Illinois winner, led every step of the 1 1/4 -mile race.

"We thought, `Can he do it?' " Audrey said. "We were all screaming and yelling. It was so exciting."

The Murrays invited about 30 people to their Derby party. Many had purchased shares in Our Emblem, shares that the Murrays had a hard time selling when they brought Our Emblem home. Because he had struck out in Kentucky, people were reluctant to give him a second chance.

His stud fee in February was $4,000. As his offspring began winning at various tracks, it jumped to $7,500. Finally, the Murrays stopped taking bookings for mares when the roster neared 100.

Even before the Derby, the Murrays had received offers to sell Our Emblem. They would like to keep him in Maryland, they said, but they just might receive an offer they can't refuse.

Asked about that yesterday, Audrey said: "Oh my gosh. We're not even thinking about that. We're just enjoying this moment."

Springer happy for winner

Frank "Bobby" Springer, an Illinois trainer, managed War Emblem for his first seven races at Arlington Park, the Fair Grounds and Sportsman's Park. The colt's owner, Russell Reineman, 84, sold him to Prince Ahmed bin Salman less than a month ago.

"I'm tickled to death for that horse," Springer said. "This is like having one of your children succeed."

Late entry is late scratch

Danthebluegrassman, a last-minute entrant in the Derby, was scratched yesterday morning after cramping up, his trainer Bob Baffert said. Baffert had entered the long-shot colt after keeping his interest in the race a secret.

Pincay Jr. misses mark

Laffit Pincay Jr., 55, was trying to become the oldest jockey to win the Derby. His mount, Medaglia d'Oro, was bumped at the break and squeezed back, before running into even more traffic problems later.

"He didn't break that great," said Pincay, racing's winningest jockey. "I couldn't get him out of the jam in time. He's a top horse, but things happen in racing."

`Hollow' wins Turf Classic

On the Derby undercard, Beat Hollow, the 8-5 favorite trained by Bobby Frankel, captured the Grade I, $452,500 Turf Classic, holding off the closing With Anticipation by 1 1/4 lengths. In the Grade I $228,000 Humana Distaff Handicap, Celtic Melody, a 4-year-old filly trained by James Jerkens, was elevated from second to first after the disqualification of Gold Mover for bumping in the stretch.

D'wildcat won the Grade II, $171,450 Churchill Downs Handicap after the disqualification of Snow Ridge, who finished a neck in front. Snow Ridge's jockey, Mike Smith, inadvertently struck the charging D'wildcat in the face with his whip. Stylish captured the Grade III, $115,2000 Distaff Turf Mile Stakes, and Holiday Runner won the $121,400 Three Chimneys Juvenile Stakes.

Record day

Wagering on the Derby will establish betting records for both the race and the overall Derby day card. A total of $79,094,806 was wagered on the Derby, with overall betting on the 11-race card at $123,315,302.

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