E. Allen Murray Jr., an electrical engineer and prominent thoroughbred horse breeder from Harford County, died on Aug. 13. He was 80.
E. Allen Murray Jr., an electrical engineer and prominent thoroughbred horse breeder from Harford County, died Aug. 13. He was 80.
Mr. Murray and his wife, Audrey, started their thoroughbred farm without "two nickels to rub together," their son said, and parlayed it into a prosperous breeding operation.
"My father certainly enjoyed every bit of it," said one of Mr. Murray's sons, Kent Murray. "He was so passionate about it."
Mr. Murray grew up around horses and met his future wife, Audrey Rickey, while competing in horse shows. He worked as a hot walker and exercise rider at the race track in Havre de Grace.
Although he earned an electrical engineering degree at the University of Delaware and worked as an engineer at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Mr. Murray's passion always was horses, his wife said.
They married in 1955 when he was 21 and she was 19 and went into the horse breeding business.
"He loved horses in general and the funny thing was, when he worked for a trainer at Havre de Grace, he said the owners would come in in big Cadillacs. He said to himself, 'This is the business I want to be in,'" Mrs. Murray said. "He loved horses and racehorses."
The couple bought their first horse, a brood mare, for $800 and ended up selling the foal she was carrying for $3,500, Mrs. Murray said.
The couple opened their farm, Murmur Farm near Churchville, in 1961. Mr. Murray was a hands-on owner, putting in hours at the barn after coming home from work. He foaled horses all the way through this year, his family said.
In 1988, the family moved Murmur Farm to a location near Darlington. Mr. Murray retired a year later and poured all of his time and attention into the farm.
"After he retired, it became his whole life," Kent Murray said.
The younger Mr. Murray said his father never missed an opportunity to see a race, if a horse he owned or was interested in was running — even if that meant cutting short a vacation at the beach.
One time, he accompanied his father on a day trip from Ocean City to Monmouth, N.J., to watch a stakes race. The horse won, and in the winner's circle, actor Bill Murray congratulated Allen Murray, saying he was glad at least one Murray was doing well. Father and son returned to the beach that night.
The Murrays found their greatest success with Our Emblem, the sire of War Emblem. In 2002, War Emblem won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.
The Murrays had bought Our Emblem the fall before for a reported $200,000, when the horse's owners were disappointed that Our Emblem's progeny weren't racing well.
Almost as soon as the Murrays bought Our Emblem, his progeny started winning. They increased his stud fees and ultimately sold him before the Belmont for more than $10 million, according to news reports at the time.
The Murrays didn't keep all the money — there were taxes and other partial owners of the horse who received shares. Kent Murray said his parents always plowed their profits back into the farm.
In addition to working on his own business, Mr. Murray was active in the horse racing industry. He served on the board of directors for Maryland Million Inc. and the Maryland Horse Breeders Association.
Mr. Murray pressed for incentives for Maryland-bred horses, in hopes of limiting the flight of horses and breeding operations to Pennsylvania.
Josh Pons, president of the Maryland Horse Breeders Association, said Mr. Murray was a tireless advocate for breeders and owners. His passion for breeding gave him credibility.
"He was a stakeholder. He invested all he could in the horse business. He didn't take from it, he gave to it," Mr. Pons said. "He was a pillar of the horse breeding industry."
Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Monday at Zellman Funeral Home in Havre de Grace with interment at Angel Hill Cemetery in Havre de Grace.
In addition to his wife and son, Mr. Murray is survived by another son, Stuart Murray, and a daughter, Carolyn Murray Berger; siblings Richard Murray, Sharon Ferrell, Carol McGowan and Mary Holt; eight grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.