Throughout his 11-season career in the major leagues, Rob Murphy’s life was all about precision.
As a relief pitcher for eight teams including the Cincinnati Reds, Murphy relished the significant impact he could have in a relatively short time on the field.
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”I would say my baseball career took off when I was put into a more precision-laden role,“ the former left-handed setup man said.
Just as Murphy blossomed after being put into a specialized task, the same could be said about his improving bay colt Golden Spikes.
Earlier this year, Murphy had aspirations of seeing the beautifully bred Golden Spikes in the starting gate for the Kentucky Derby. But after four unsuccessful attempts at stretching him out to 11⁄8 miles, he returned to the shorter distances he excelled at as a 2-year-old.
That decision paid immediate dividends. With back-to-back wins at 6 furlongs, including a rousing triumph in the Grade II Carry Back Stakes on July 12, Golden Spikes heads into Saturday’s Grade I King’s Bishop at Saratoga as a leading contender in the 7-furlong test.
The King’s Bishop, which boasts a field of 11, is one of three graded stakes on the under card of Saturday’s $1 million Travers Stakes.
Golden Spikes halted what had become a five-race losing streak when he overcame Gentleman James to win the Unbridled Stakes by a head at Calder on June 14.
The result was even more impressive a month later when the son of Seeking the Gold made his move four-wide in the stretch to catch Gentleman James again by three-quarters of a length in the $250,000 Carry Back.
”We realized those mile and an eighth races ... were just a touch too far,“ said Murphy, who owns Golden Spikes in partnership with a group that includes Florida Marlins catcher Paul Lo Duca. ”We knew he would be fine turning back in distance. We knew he could step up in class.
”This race is pretty deep, but I think you’ll have enough speed and ... you’ve got to hope he comes through in the lane and finishes as well as he has in the last couple.“
Out of the A.P. Indy mare A.P. Interest, Golden Spikes has won four of 10 career starts with earnings of $372,095.
His lovely pedigree may have caught Murphy’s eye on the catalog page, but it was the former pitcher’s intricate computerized pedigree program that fully prompted him to plunk down $250,000 for Golden Spikes at the 2006 Keeneland September yearling sale.
Murphy initially developed a handicapping database while in high school and later perfected it to select pedigrees in 1983 while in the minor leagues.
”I wanted to have a precise program that could filter down a catalog of say 5,000 horses,“ said Murphy, who was attending the University of Kentucky when drafted by the Reds in 1981.
”I mean, that’s what we did with Golden Spikes. We always came into a sale of, you know, 350-400 horses and bought one or two and ended up with stakes horses almost 50 percent of the time.“
Included among those past successes for Murphy, who races under the name M375 Thoroughbreds, was the talented filly Platinum Tiara who ran second behind Caressing in the 2000 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.
Murphy was noncommittal about whether Golden Spikes would go on to the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Santa Anita in October.
But considering the depth of competition he will face Saturday, a victory in the King’s Bishop could put the colt in the hunt for divisional honors — precisely where Murphy wants him.
”This could be the whole ball of wax right here,“ Murphy said.