Ever wonder how everybody's favorite bartender, Murray Stenson, came about his nickname, Murr the Blur? Over cocktails last week at Oliver's, Stenson, the Zig Zag vet who now slings drinks at Canon, informed Voracious that the moniker is derived from a speedy Kentucky-bred racehorse who finished fifth in the Longacres Mile in 1980.
But unlike Stenson, who's still going strong in his sixties, the horse Murrtheblurr fell short in the stamina department.
Vince Bruun, the Emerald Downs media relations director whose tenure in horse racing dates back to when Longacres was in its heyday, graciously put together the following dossier on Murrtheblurr, cobbling together old Daily Racing Form clips and media guide information, as well as his own analysis:
"Murrtheblurr was a 1977 Kentucky-bred bay horse by Torsion out of Princeton Pride. His career record was 9-6-4 in 40 starts with earnings of $255,110. Murrtheblurr began his career with a win at Turf Paradise on April 11, 1979. He won three stakes that year (Haggin Stakes at Hollywood Park, Sir Francis Drake Stakes at Bay Meadows and Arizona Paradise Futurity at Turf Paradise). Frank Olivares (father of Christina Olivares of TVG) was the jockey in all three races while Jerry Fanning was the trainer for the first two and Marion L. "Million Dollar" Smith was the trainer in the Arizona stakes.
The horse was owned by Dan J. Agnew of Tenino, incidentally now a member of the Washington Racing Hall of Fame in the Breeders category. In 1980, Agnew brought Murrtheblurr to Longacres where Smith was his longtime trainer. Now a 3-year-old, Murrtheblurr rattled off consecutive wire-to-wire stakes wins in the June 22 Joshua Green Cup at 6-½ furlongs and the July 6 Seattle Handicap at one mile. Pappy, who would upset Loto Canada in the famous 1980 Longacres Derby, finished runner-up to Murrtheblurr in both events. Since distance was an issue with the horse, Smith and Agnew chose to run Murrtheblurr against older horses in the 1980 Longacres Mile rather than against 3-year-olds in the longer 1-3/16-mile Longacres Derby. Murrtheblurr led through a half-mile in a very fast :45 and wound up a respectable fifth of 10 as Trooper Seven won the first of his two straight Miles.
Transferred to the Southwest and trainer J.J. Pletcher (father of Todd Pletcher), Murrtheblurr raced exclusively in sprints in 1981 and was a double allowance winner at Oaklawn Park and runner-up in a stakes at Louisiana Downs. Sent back to California and Fanning that fall, Murrtheblurr won his final race on Oct. 3, 1981 in the El Otono Stakes at Fresno. His final two races were fifth and sixth place finishes in allowance race at Hollywood Park on Dec. 5 & 18, 1981, with D. Wayne Lukas the trainer.
After his racing days, Murrtherblurr was sold to Billingsley Creek Ranch in Hageman, Idaho, where he stood for over a decade as a sire of both Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses. In summary, Murrtheblurr had a ton of natural ability but was very limited by his lack of stamina. An aptly named horse to be sure, and I recall the Times and PI having a ball with his unusual name in their headlines back in 1980."
So does the nickname really fit Stenson? Considering his speed behind the bar and the fact that his name begins with "Murr," sort of. But a better thoroughbred to name Stenson after would be Ghostzapper, a uniquely versatile Breeders Cup champion who could vanquish elite rivals at any distance. Similar to Stenson's "Best Bartender in America" accolades, Ghostzapper is considered by many (including this writer, a onetime DRF stringer at Fairmount Park) to be the greatest racehorse of the 21st Century