An Emblem of success

May 16, 2002

IT HAS BEEN six months since Audrey and Allen Murray gambled on a horse. And he's been paying off ever since.

It seems the horse, Our Emblem, a sire with sure-fire bloodlines, had failed to deliver for his previous owners. Our Emblem's initial offspring appeared a lead-footed lot, and he was sold in November to the Murrays, owners of Murmur Farm in Darlington. No sooner had Our Emblem made himself at home in the Murrays' stallion barn than two of his sons started to make their daddy proud. They won races.

In Illinois, in Arkansas - and then in Kentucky. War Emblem vanquished the Kentucky Derby field in a surprising wire-to-wire win.

The Murrays' phone has been ringing off the hook since Derby day. Mare owners from across the country are begging for a chance to couple their horses with the Derby winner's progenitor.

The Murrays are giddy at their good fortune. They started out 50 years ago as horse haulers. Over time, the couple moved onto a small farm in Aberdeen, and in 1988 opened the barns in Darlington. They represent the working soul of Maryland's horse racing industry, folks who are in the business for the love of it, not the flash and the fanfare.

The Murrays' purchase of Our Emblem wasn't a gamble so much as an investment. They knew his breeding was impeccable. They liked his handsome looks. They believed in him. And with a below-average crop of 31 foals in his first year, the Murrays reasoned the best was yet to come.

On Saturday, the Murrays' good fortune could increase tenfold. If War Emblem wins the 127th running of the Preakness, his father will become even more valuable. Then the Murrays may be faced with an offer they can't refuse - despite their hope that they can keep Our Emblem in Darlington.

Regardless of the outcome, the Murrays' investment has already proved an emblem of success for Maryland racing.

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