07/11/2002 11:00PM

Jay Ar Jay, lawyered up and ready to go


VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Trainer Alex Murray, who trains Jay Ar Jay, a contender in the $35,000 Ladnesian Stakes Sunday, is one of the most popular figures on the Hastings Park backstretch, especially for those in need of legal advice. When he's not at the racetrack, Murray is busy running a legal practice that specializes in immigration and criminal law.

"It can be very difficult balancing the two professions during the summer," said Murray. "I try not to take too many cases during the racing season, but what are you going to do when someone calls from jail at three o'clock in the morning and wants to get out. Luckily, I have tremendous help at the barn to cover for me."

Murray also spent some time as a racing official at Northlands Park and Sandown but didn't like working in a "very smoky office." He prefers working with horses rather than numbers. "It was a good experience, though. It gave me a good insight on how things work on that end of the racing business."

The best horse Murray has ever trained is Vernon Invader, who is entered in the third race Sunday, a $25,000 claiming race at 1 1/16 miles. Vernon Invader won the 1998 B.C. Derby and has lifetime earnings of $466,151. His earnings would have been about $100,000 more except for a couple of controversial decisions by racing officials in Alberta and Washington.

When Vernon Invader won the Alberta Derby there was a claim of foul by the jockey of the second-place horse that was disallowed by the stewards. However, there was an appeal by the second-place finisher's connections and the Alberta Racing Commission overturned the steward's ruling and reversed the order of finish. In the Emerald Downs Derby, Vernon Invader was disqualified from second and placed out of the money for interference just after the start. The winner of the Emerald Derby later tested positive for a banned substance and the second-place finisher took home first prize. "That was a bad week," said Murray. "The ruling from Alberta came the same week as the Emerald race. But we did win the B.C. Derby and that took some of the sting away."

Vernon Invader isn't nearly the same horse he was at 3, but he did win three races last year and he placed in a couple of stakes at Sunland Park in New Mexico this winter. "He's a year older and a year slower," said Murray. "He's got some minor problems but he has natural talent so he should run okay. They tell me he's been working extremely well at Emerald."

Murray was pleasantly surprised that Jay Ar Jay won his debut race, and didn't have any real expectations going into the Ladnesian. "He's a lot different than Vernon Invader was as a 2-year-old," he said. "Vernon Invader showed me a lot more earlier. He just had a lot more natural talent."

Jay Ar Jay came from well off of the pace to win his maiden and Murray is hoping for a quick pace in the Ladnesian. He will probably get it with Royal Justin, Johnny's Cache, and Don't Pali me all coming off of front-running wins on the 3 1/2-furlong nursery course.

"He's a long striding colt but I don't know how good he really is," he said. "I haven't really sat him down in the mornings but it's nice to have a 2-year-old that can relax and then finish his races strongly."

Milburn, too

David Milburn is another lawyer-trainer at Hastings Park and he also credits his help at both the office and barn for allowing him to keep his hand in both professions.

Milburn specializes in criminal and personal injury cases and spends roughly 4 1/2 days a week in court. He was the president of the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association for seven years and is still on the board. He also does his own blacksmith work.

While Milburn hasn't had a horse like Vernon Invader, he usually wins his share of races and likes his chances with Shoo Fly Willie in the second race Sunday. "I've had a lot more success as a lawyer than a trainer," said Milburn, assessing his two careers. "But that's probably because I like my horses a lot and try to protect them by running them a little bit over their heads."