07/29/2008 11:00PM

Morey following proven path


DEL MAR, Calif. - William Edward Morey is the grandson of a racehorse owner and the son of a racehorse trainer. He gets his first name from his father and his middle name from his father's friend, also a racehorse trainer. His destiny thus sealed, he took the only path possible after graduating from high school in Northern California.

He went off and got a bachelor's degree in economics from San Jose State University.

"I pretty much knew what I was going to end up doing, but going through college was something I thought was important," Morey said Wednesday morning on the Del Mar backstretch. "If nothing else, it made me a slightly more rounded individual."

Morey, 34, admitted this with refreshing innocence. In fact, the last thing a trainer needs to be is well-rounded. Obsessed helps. Masochistic comes in handy. Sullen and antisocial are not required, but sometimes need to be summoned when other, more well-rounded people want to know what went wrong.

Still, the ability to speak in complete sentences and maintain eye contact should never be underrated, even if that's the only thing left over from four years of Adam Smith and Milton Friedman. If nothing else, it is to Morey's credit that he keeps a fairly sunny outlook in the face of a profession fraught with so much economic uncertainty.

He does have the benefit of his good family name and enterprise, which allowed him, at the age of 26, to step briskly into a 40-horse operation when he took charge of the Northern California barn run by his father, William J. Morey Jr. The elder Morey was heading south at the time with a string led by a nice stakes horse named Dixie Dot Com.

"Maybe the only drawback to my education in racing is that I was only able to learn from one barn," said Morey the Younger. "But it was a pretty good barn."

Winning races at a 20 percent clip also tends to get a man out of bed early each day with a purpose in mind. Morey's main stable is at Golden Gate, where he competes horse-to-horse with the aggressive claiming outfits run by Steve Miyadi, Art Sherman, John Martin, and the king himself, Jerry Hollendorfer. Morey made news earlier this year by winning the Golden Gate fields training title. Big deal, you say? Yes, very, because for the past 22 years training titles at Golden Gate were the solely owned property of Hollendorfer.

"That's not something you ever plan on doing up there," Morey said, with a straight face. "It was just something that fell into place, and I got lucky and won four races on that next-to-last day of the meet. I'd never won four in a day before, but if I was ever going to do it, that was the day."

The notoriously competitive Hollendorfer reacted predictably after Morey interrupted his reign.

"He said, 'Congratulations' and kept walking," Morey recalled.

Of course, if he wanted to, Hollendorfer could console himself with the notion that he has fashioned a career worthy of Hall of Fame consideration, and that his 2008 stable has included such major race winners as Heatseeker, Hystericalady, and Mistical Ocean. A Golden Gate title more or less isn't going to make that much difference.

Hollendorfer should be the ultimate model for every ambitious Northern California trainer - making the leap from Northern California dominance to the highest levels of nationwide competition - and to that end Morey had set up shop at Del Mar this summer in hopes of establishing a presence.

"I've always been a little cautious about running down here, because I know how tough it is," Morey said. "But I had a lot of momentum going recently, and a lot of horses at Golden Gate that wouldn't have run much on the fair circuit - some turf horses, and some 3-year-olds I thought would fit down here. And I train for a couple people who live down here, which is good for business, to show my face down here and give it a try."

Unfortunately, the best known runner in the Morey stable probably won't be seen during the Del Mar meet. This would be Scrumpy, a 5-year-old gelding who has been wreaking havoc in the Northern California claiming ranks for the past year, winning 10 of his last 14 starts while running for five different barns, and moving Golden Gate announcer Michael Wrona to howl, "You've gotta love Scrumpy!" on June 21 when he won for fun.

Scrumpy had run as low as $4,000 before winning the Sam J. Whiting Handicap at the Pleasanton fair on July 4. He runs again on Friday at the Santa Rosa fair, seeking his fourth win in four starts for Morey while running for a $62,500 claiming price.

"All of us in Northern California were being haunted by Scrumpy back here," Morey said, pointing to past performance lines from late 2007 and early 2008. "It didn't matter what level he was running. I've been lucky to get him at the right time."

In the meantime, Morey also has two in Friday at Del Mar, where he has yet to catch fire, having won with 2 of 12 starters entering the week.

"Admittedly, we get a little spoiled up north, winning a lot of races," Morey said. "If I'm winning at 20 percent, I feel like I'm just hanging on. So I'm realistic about running down here. I'm just hoping to win a few more races and build on that."