12/14/2001 12:00AM

More than Murrays wished for


Allen and Audrey Murray didn't shop around for a new stallion to stand at their Murmur Farm in Darlington, Md., in 2002. Somehow, they found two of next season's most exciting prospects without even looking.

New to Maryland are Our Emblem, the gorgeously bred former Claiborne Farm stallion who arrived at Murmur in mid-November, and Disco Rico, one of the most awe-inspiring competitors to race in Maryland in recent years, due to arrive at the farm next week.

The Murrays maintain an extremely busy schedule overseeing their lovely northeastern Maryland farm - from which, if you stand in the upper fields, you can see the Susquehanna River just before it reaches the Chesapeake Bay. It is always the couple's hope that a new stallion can rival the accomplishments of their former star, Norquestor, who was beginning to emerge as one of the region's best sires when he was stricken by an injury, then foundered and died in 1999.

Murmur's two new prospects bring intriguing possibilities.

Our Emblem is a son of Mr. Prospector out of the remarkable racemare and producer Personal Ensign. While his undefeated champion dam and her Grade 1-winning offspring My Flag and Miner's Mark made their fortunes in races run at distances over a mile, Our Emblem was best sprinting. He won five races and placed in 10 others from 27 starts, earning $366,013. While not a stakes winner, he placed eight times, all in graded company, including seconds in the Grade 1 Carter Handicap and thirds in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap and Grade 1 Vosburgh Stakes.

Now 10, Our Emblem is represented by two crops of racing age. By today's industry standards for a horse of his caliber, his initial crop wasn't large, with only 33 registered foals. He had a quiet first year when his foals reached the races, with only three 2-year-old winners last season. But his winners have been bountiful in recent weeks.

Since Nov. 1, he has had 11 winners (nearly half of his total for the year). Five of those are 2-year-olds, pushing his total number of juvenile winners to nine in 2001.

Audrey Murray describes Our Emblem as a horse with a "wonderful attitude and great to work with." He is currently being resyndicated at $7,500 a share and will stand the upcoming season for $4,000, nearly half of what he stood for in 2001.

The retirement of speedy Disco Rico offers breeders the combination of two of Maryland's most successful lines. A son of popular stallion Citidancer, Disco Rico is the first foal out of Apalachee's stakes-placed daughter Round It Off, who is a half-sister to multiple graded stakes winner and $535,863-earner Miss Slewpy. Disco Rico's second dam, Capp It Off, earned $213,803 and three added-money races, and was one of five stakes horses produced by Maryland broodmare of the year Turn Capp.

Current top freshman sire Smoke Glacken, the 1997 Eclipse Award-winning sprinter, descends from the same family.

Many observers of Joe and Alfred DiRico's Disco Rico came away with the belief that the striking bay was the nation's fastest horse away from the gate. In all 17 of his starts, Disco Rico was in front at the first quarter.

The impending speed duel between him and locally based Xtra Heat in the Grade 1 Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash brought mixed emotions, but did not materialize. A condylar fracture of his left foreleg in the Lite the Fuse Stakes on Oct. 27 brought Disco Rico's season, and career, to a halt.

"The vets told us that he could have come back in six months," said his trainer, Lori Testerman. "The fact that he is going to stud is our decision."

Disco Rico earned $532,244 with 15 wins or placings, 12 in stakes. Two of his five stakes wins were graded races - the Grade 3 Jersey Shore Breeders' Cup Stakes at Monmouth and this year's Grade 3 Maryland Breeders' Cup Handicap.

Murmur Farm is also home to graded stakes-winning young sires Crypto Star and Yarrow Brae, Wayne County (Ire), Root Boy, and Haymaker. The Murrays are having a stallion showing on Sunday, Jan. 13, and interested parties may contact the farm for more details.