Murray Smith Hits Home Run With Monarchos

Published in the May 12 Blood-Horse
Florida pinhooker Murray Smith was looking for a quick profit when she bought Monarchos privately as a yearling for $100,000 in the spring of 1999. But the big payoff didn't come until two years later, when the gray colt charged down the Churchill Downs stretch to win the Kentucky Derby (gr. I).

"To me, this is the real home run," said Smith, who watched Monarchos' victory from a box seat near the Derby's finish line. "I've made more money with other horses. But the most important thing, if you are going to survive in this business, is to sell runners."

The strut in Monarchos' walk caught Smith's eye while she was shopping for yearlings at Jim and Mary Anne Squires' Two Bucks Farm near Versailles, Ky. She also liked the conformation of the colt's hips and hind legs; so Smith made a deal, even though she thought Monarchos was "priced high."

Two of Smith's regular partners, Michael Eiserman and Earl Silver, agreed to join her as investors in the colt. They tried to sell Monarchos at the Saratoga yearling sale through Kentucky agent Fred Seitz, but ended up buying the colt back for $90,000. Monarchos was going through an awkward stage in his growth, but "I could still see the athletic abilities in him," Smith said.

Next, Monarchos was entered in the 2000 Fasig-Tipton select sale of 2-year-olds in training at Calder, where he suffered a series of setbacks. He had a hard time settling down after shipping from Ocala to South Florida. He developed sore shins and an abscess in one foot. And, worst of all, he didn't work fast. The colt breezed a quarter-mile in :223?5, then worked an eighth in :11.

"A lot of people didn't want to look at him because he was limping," Smith said. "But John Ward came back to the barn every day, and he had his vet check him over carefully. John is the kind of trainer who sees things that are not just on the surface. He really looks into a horse."

Ward's client, John Oxley, bought Monarchos for $170,000, which produced a profit, but not a windfall for Smith and her partners.

"It's not always the high-dollar horses who turn out to be the best ones," said Smith, who also pinhooked sprint champion Smoke Glacken, buying him for $14,700 as a weanling and reselling him for $34,000 as a yearling.