Hay season has put me a little behind schedule in terms of writing things, so let’s go back in time a little bit, shall we?
Last Saturday, Mrs. Murphy had her third start. After a third-to-last effort in her debut and a fading last in her encore, her racing career had so far left much to be desired. Her trainer was optimistic that her form would come around, but she had yet to show it on the racetrack.
Regardless of her performance, a horse with my name on it is more than enough of an excuse to justify a trip to Pinnacle Race Course.
Mrs. Murphy was in the second race. Though having a horse in a race early in the card can create the occasional time crunch getting to the racetrack, it is nice to get all of the jitters out of the way and be able to enjoy the rest of the day’s races without feeling like a spring about to uncoil (maybe that’s just me…). Plus, the earlier the race, the sooner one can get his or her win picture if the day should warrant it.
As the horses walked over from the barns, I started looking for that big white star right above the eyes that set Murph apart from the rest of the field. The group of horses and their handlers all came by – no star. After making another sweep through the field, I noticed the silver and blue blinkers of the Russell stable covering her face. Bingo.
As usual, Mrs. Murphy looked spectacular, but there was something about her that looked different. She seemed leaner, more fit. After her last start, her trainer said she was still coming around in terms of conditioning. It seems she had progressed by leaps and bounds in the last eleven days, which was definitely a good sign.
Remember during Murph’s last race when I noted how well-behaved she seemed despite her bloodlines suggesting otherwise? It appears she got the memo.
Shortly after her handler was given his yellow #4 smock before entering the paddock, Mrs. Murphy went up on two legs, nearly flipping all the way over on her back. She came down a loose horse with her shank wrapped around one of her front legs.
This could have gone downhill very quickly. She could have fled the scene and taken a few practice laps on her own – Best case scenario: she’s quickly wrangled and brought back to saddle, but not before tiring herself out and removing herself from serious contention. Worst case scenario: she bolts and that tangled shank causes her to go down and never get back up. Either way, I would have spent an awful lot of time on the road to see a non-starter.
Instead, she stood calmly and allowed herself to get scooped back up by her handler and taken to the paddock without further incident. My blood pressure eventually returned to its normal level.
Mrs. Murphy saddled and left the paddock without causing much of a ruckus and calmly went through the post parade and back to the gates under jockey Angel Stanley.
Meanwhile, I hurried to the betting window to place my Standard Unproven Murphy Horse Wager (TM): $2 across the board. During the glory days of Royal Charley’s racing career at Great Lakes Downs when he was a threat in just about every start, that number would jump to $5 across and five more to win, but Murph has a long way to go before things get to that point (and yes, I know that’s still relatively chump change. I’m a college student. Not much money to play around with). When the gates opened, she was giving 12-1 – the longest shot on the board.
The horses were loaded without much fuss and were released just as quickly.
Mrs. Murphy took roughly the same spot in the early goings as she had in her last race, right in the front pack just off the leaders. She didn’t have the lead this time, but she was in the discussion. Murph kept her position heading into the turn when the leader, Kindasweet, began to pull away. From where I was standing, it looked like Mrs. Murphy was beginning to lose steam again, the same as her last race. I began to wonder if she just wasn’t cut out to be a racehorse and prepared my new, expensive camera (more on this at a later time) to photograph the eventual winner as she made her closing strides.
Just then, I heard announcer Matt Hook exclaim something like “Mrs. Murphy is making another move.” I focused in my camera to see a rider with blue silks and a yellow cap making a move toward the leader on the outside. She was actually doing it! I set my camera on “Burst” and held the shutter button down as Murph inched closer to the leader. However, in my excitement as the two got closer to the wire, I became more concerned with watching the race and ended up with a bunch of pictures of the top of the riders’ heads. I haven’t yelled that loud in a long time.
Mrs. Murphy ran hard, but could not get past the leader and finished second by a length. As a breeder, I do not get a paycheck, unless she wins, but considering her first two starts, this was as good as a victory. She showed she could compete on the racetrack and last longer than four furlongs; something her mother struggled with her entire career.
I got $14 and change for the place and show bet payoffs, so even though she did not win, I did come out ahead for the race. After this race, it is doubtful she will demand 12-1 odds for her next few starts. Regardless, I am incredibly stoked to see if she can finish the job in her next go-round.
Though she did not finish the day in the winner’s circle, the race offered hope that doing so was a realistic goal. Though the breeder’s check is an obvious reason to root her on, the main reason I want Mrs. Murphy to succeed is to keep the Echo Hills bloodline going and show it can still compete in Michigan. Murph’s granddam, Janies Echo, still lives at my grandpa’s farm (she’s 26 years old) and I would love to see her family tree keep going strong for generations to come.
Make no mistake, Mrs. Murphy is not my horse. But there are so many ties back to my family, from the name to the bloodlines to my grandpa and I being named as her co-breeders, it still feels as though she were running under our own colors.
For a chart of the race, click here.
Behind the jump are some of the pictures I took of Mrs. Murphy’s day at the races…