Murrays, Alberts cool off after seasons in spotlight


Horse Racing

July 07, 2002|By Tom Keyser

The phone has stopped ringing incessantly at Murmur Farm in Darlington and at Nancy Alberts' in Jessup. Life has returned to normal, more or less, but the fairy-tale memories remain fresh.

"A wild ride," said Audrey Murray. "Once in a lifetime."

Audrey and Allen Murray, who own Murmur Farm, said goodbye last week to Our Emblem, the stallion they owned for a brief, but exhilarating, eight months. After breeding his last two of 100 mares in Maryland, Our Emblem boarded a van Monday for the ride to his new home, Taylor Made Farm in Kentucky.

"I'm starting to feel sad," Audrey said. "Allen's very relieved. It was a lot of pressure and responsibility. I'm having to let go."

The Murrays bought Our Emblem last fall after he had fallen out of favor at Claiborne Farm in Kentucky. The purchase proved so risky that they had trouble selling shares in the stallion back home in Maryland.

But the Murrays struck pay dirt when Our Emblem's offspring suddenly started winning around the world. His most famous son, War Emblem, captured the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. He might have won the Triple Crown if not for stumbling, nearly falling, at the start of the Belmont.

Offers poured in for the suddenly in-demand sire. Finally, the Murrays accepted $10.1 million from a partnership of two Kentucky farms, Winstar and Taylor Made. The Murrays have declined to say what they paid for Our Emblem. But if it was around $200,000, the figured most bandied about, then they sold him for 50 times that.

Audrey pointed out that 48 percent of the $10.1 million goes for taxes. And the Murrays have to pay the syndicate members fortunate enough, or wise enough, to invest in Our Emblem last fall.

With their portion of the profit, the Murrays might buy a few new horses - maybe a couple of stallions to complement the six that remain at Murmur, or maybe a couple of nice broodmares to breed to Our Emblem. The Murrays retained two lifetime breeding rights.

"We've been so overwhelmed, we haven't really thought about what we'll do," Audrey said. "But it's been exciting. It was fun having the leading sire in the country."

Meanwhile, Alberts and her darling, Magic Weisner, have settled into a summer routine devoid of reporters and potential buyers calling every minute. After Alberts saddled her gelding to a second-place finish in the Preakness and a fourth in the Belmont, she felt like collapsing from exhaustion.

"I didn't realize how much it knocked me out," she said.

She gave Magic Weisner four or five days off. She breezed him five furlongs eight days ago for his first serious work since the Belmont. What's she going to do with him now?

"Pet him," Alberts said. "Give him some peppermints, some carrots. Admire him. ... I think the little horse is just phenomenal. Every time I get on him, I just thank the Lord I have him."

Actually, she said, she'll probably run him in the Haskell Invitational Handicap. That's a Grade I stakes at 1 1/8 miles worth $1 million Aug. 4 at Monmouth Park.

Would she then consider running Magic Weisner in the prestigious Travers Stakes - the so-called "mid-summer Derby" - Aug. 24 at Saratoga? She might, she said.

Alberts, who had never been to Belmont Park before the Belmont, has never been to Saratoga, either.

"Everybody says that would be fun just to go there for a week," she said.


Tom Bowman, the Eastern Shore breeder and veterinarian, has been elected president of the Maryland Horse Breeders Association. He said his goal will be to foster fresh ideas and to educate the public and legislature about the significance of the horse industry in Maryland.

He said the breeders will not rush into replacing Michael Flynn, former executive vice president of the MHBA. Flynn started the job in February, did not perform up to expectations, and on June 11 he and the association parted company.

Plans for Xtra Heat call for the Laurel speedster to race July 13 in the $400,000 Princess Rooney Handicap at Calder Race Course in South Florida. That's a Grade II, six-furlong sprint for fillies and mares.

The $500,000 Virginia Derby will take place July 13 at Colonial Downs in Virginia. The $600,000 Delaware Handicap is set for the next weekend, July 21, at Delaware Park.

After skipping the Suburban Handicap yesterday at Belmont Park, Include will likely run next Aug. 18 in the Iselin Handicap at Monmouth, said his trainer, Bud Delp.

The Kentucky trainer Carl Nafzger says that Belterra, the 3-year-oldfilly owned by the Marylander Bob Manfuso, will not race again until nextyear. She's been beset by various training setbacks, including throatsurgery.

Fasig-Tipton Midlantic has listed 189 horses for its auction of 2-year-olds in training and horses of racing age at Timonium Tuesday. The sale features the New York-breds Foreverness and Decisive, who recently ran first and second, respectively, at Belmont.

Yearling show

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