11/13/2002 1:00AM

Leo's Last Hurrahy owner gets in the game


Leo's Last Hurrahy, a two-time stakes winner, will lead the charge of Ken Murphy-owned starters Saturday night on Texas Champions Day at Sam Houston Race Park.

The rich card, made up of eight stakes for statebreds and one for open company, is worth a cumulative $625,000.

Murphy, who has won the last two owners' titles at both Lone Star Park and Louisiana Downs, has six-time stakes winner Miss Ritz in the $50,000 Yellow Rose; Texas Stallion Stakes winner Tiffany Jennifer in the $50,000 Bara Lass; and Leo's Last Hurrahy in against open company in the $150,000 Sam Houston Texan Juvenile.

Leo's Last Hurrahy could go favored in the Juvenile on the strength of his come-from-behind win last out in a division of the $125,000 Texas Stallion Stakes. Earlier this year, he won a division of the $150,000 Texas Thoroughbred Association Sales Futurity, and Murphy hopes to see the colt represent Texas during the Great State Challenge at Sam Houston on Dec. 7.

"We have a lot of confidence in Leo," said Murphy. "We think he's a very good horse. He has an awful lot of potential, and of my horses, he has the most upside."

Murphy has about 35 horses in training. He has been a longtime fan of racing, and in the 1980's was part of a group that tried to get parimutuel wagering resurrected in Texas. The measure did not pass the legislature, and after that, Murphy decided to cut his ties to racing for a while. He interested in the game was renewed in 1997, and purchased his first racehorse, Branson.

From there, the stable grew.

"There were a lot of horses running in claiming races that I thought were better than their [claiming price], and I started buying them," said Murphy.

Outside of the claiming box, he has built his stable up by acquiring young horses, among them Leo's Last Hurrahy.

The colt was part of a package trade that came together when a friend said he was interested in the Murphy-owned Taffy, a two-time stakes winner of more than $300,000, for a broodmare.

"It was a nice deal for both of us," said Murphy.

Iwinski invades Texas

Trainer Allen Iwinski, a mainstay on the East Coast, has sent Big Broken Straw to Sam Houston for the $100,000 Star of Texas Stakes, which is the featured race for older statebreds on Texas Champions Day.

The colt is an allowance winner and has been training over the local strip since last week.

"He likes the track," said Ed Madden, an assistant to Iwinski. "He's back home where he was born. From here, he went to Finger Lakes then to Delaware, where he was claimed by the Acclaimed Racing Stable.

"After his performance in Delaware, they decided to bring him back home, so to speak."

Eddie Martin, who rode for Iwinski last summer at Delaware, has the mount on Big Broken Straw.

The horse is one of two in the Star of Texas who is bred by Joe McDermott. The other is two-time defending champ Lights on Broadway, who McDermott co-owns. Lights on Broadway is trained by C.W. "Bubba" Cascio.

Pick four debuts Saturday

Sam Houston will offer two pick four wagers a night starting with the Texas Champions Day program Saturday. The first will begin on race 2, the second on race 7. The pick four wager will be offered through the end of the meet.

Also for Texas Champions Day, ontrack patrons will be able to place advance wagers on the card beginning at 10:30 a.m. Friday.

Expo, seminars on Champions Day

The Champions Day card does not start until 7 p.m. Saturday night, but there will be much to do before the first post. At the simulcast pavilion, an Equine Expo featuring horse-related products and a seminar about racehorse ownership start around noon.

Lee Ackerley, who with his brother Bob raced stakes winners Jersey Girl, Valid Expectations, Little Sister, and Snuck In, and John Adger, bloodstock and racing manager for Stonerside Stable, will speak at the free ownership seminar sponsored by the TTA.

Later in the evening, Scott Ehlers of Daily Racing Form will host a free handicapping seminar with Reid McLellan of Sam Houston. The program will be held on the club level and begin at 6 p.m.

* Among the out-of-town riders expected for Texas Champions Day are Martin, Terry Thompson, Gerard Melancon, Ron Ardoin, Corey Lanerie, and Curt Bourque.

* Glen Murphy and Sidney LeJeune Jr. have joined the riding colony at Sam Houston.