NL Loren dies at age 31, unique pace-bred trotter

11:16 AM 05 Dec 2013 NZDT
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NL Loren, harness racing
NL Loren
NL Loren (1:57.4, $59,512), the 1986 seasons leader for four-year-old trotting geldings, died this morning at Craftwell Farm in West River, Maryland, his home for the past 21 years, and now his place of burial.

NL Loren was a pacing-bred trotter, owned by Jane and Doug Murray and trained by Doug. He won 22 races in 97 starts over 8 years of competition, including a year missed completely while recovering from an injury.

He was featured in a 1986 Hoof Beats story titled, "The Twelve Least Likely 2:00 Trotters." NL Loren's mark that year was accomplished in an open trot at the Springfield (Illinois) State Fair. His time was more than four seconds, 20 lengths, faster than he'd ever trotted.

He was purchased in 1986 with tax refund money, as a birthday gift from Doug to Jane. "Jane wanted to use it for something else, but I thought it would be better spent on a horse," said Doug Murray.

NL Loren's career was marked by brilliant performances at unlikely times, mixed with a feline-like propensity for disasters that never quite caused his demise. He beat the stakes-winning two-year-old trotter BJ's Superstar by a nose in a Breeders Crown prep race at Pompano Park at a time when the younger horse had $150,000 more on his card than did NL Loren.

Alternating between Pompano in the winter and his "home" track of Quad City Downs in the summer, NL Loren came back from a lacerated tendon sustained in a race in 1987 when he was winning regularly and attracting potential buyers.

The tendon healed and NL Loren was on his way back to the races when he colicked in his trailer, somewhere in Georgia, in the pre-cell phone, pre-GPS era.

"We were at a truck stop in Georgia," said Doug Murray. "I got a vet's name from a phone book, got directions to his farm. I unloaded the other horses and we worked on Loren the rest of the night. He came through and we got back on the road the next morning."

Three straight wins followed and it looked like the Murrays had a Meadowlands horse on their hands. They sent him to race at the New Jersey flagship track.

"We watched at a sports bar in Florida," Murray said. "He looked like he was going to win for fun, but as he came out of the hole, he caught his right front leg between the wheel and the sulky of the horse in front of him."

Surgery for a bone chip and 18 months of recuperation followed and like Lazarus, he rose again, to race at Rosecroft Raceway, where he competed for the last time in 1992.

The Murrays have boarded NL Loren since 1992 at Craftwell Farm, where Jane Murray took him for the occasional trail ride. He also served as babysitter for yearling Thoroughbreds until arthritis in an ankle progressed to the point where he could no longer be kept comfortable.

"He opened a lot of doors for us," said Doug Murray. "He didn't make a lot of money or anything like that, but he provided a little bit of name recognition. He doesn't owe me a dime, it's just payback."

by Ellen Harvey


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