Pinhooker is new to Del Mar but not to racing


By Julie Sarno


Buy low, sell high is the mantra of investors the world over. And while it has not been helping many in the stock market, it has proved a good way for Murray Smith to make a living in thoroughbred racing.

Smith buys young horses with the goal of reselling them at a higher price. In the thoroughbred industry, this is known as “pinhooking.”

She might buy a yearling for $45,000. Once the colt or filly is broken, receives schooling and exhibits talent, she will resell it as a 2-year-old in training for a profit of approximately $100,000, which after expenses still provides a good return.

Smith moved to California from the Ocala horse country of central Florida just a few months ago and has adopted the Del Mar beach lifestyle. If you see a woman going through Del Mar on a Segway scooter, chances are, it’s probably Smith. When she’s not working, Smith enjoys walking on the beach and spending time with boyfriend Kelly Chamberlin.

“I came here in May of this year,” Smith said. “I decided to take a vacation here. I walked the beach every day. It just captured me.”

Smith is an attractive, athletic blond who cheerfully admits to being in her 40s. She lives equidistant to the village, the ocean and the track, all within a few minutes on her Segway.

Born in Pensacola, Fla., Smith spent her early years with hunters and jumpers, riding horses every day. Her family moved to Atlanta and then to Potomac, Md., and finally to Greenville, S.C.

Through all the moving, horses are the constant in Smith’s life. She has been in the thoroughbred industry for 20 years.

At the July 21 and 22 Fasig-Tipton sale, her Divine Assets Inc. was the second-leading buyer, spending $965,000 for 14 yearlings, the term for 1-year-old thoroughbred colts and fillies, in Lexington, Ky. The priciest offering she purchased was a colt by Southern Image for $150,000.

Smith raises money by putting together groups who want to buy racing prospects. She looks for promising young horses, individuals with good pedigrees who are “balanced, athletic and move well.”

At the recent sales, Smith was among the underbidders on the highest-priced offering, a filly by Medaglia d’Oro, the most in-demand stallion at the sale. The yearling filly - all yearlings are unraced, untried quantities - sold for $425,000.

Her ability to spot a horse with potential has been acknowledged for some time. Smith made a name for herself at the beginning of the decade when she bought Monarchos, a colt who went on to win the 2001 Kentucky Derby for John Oxley.

“I bought him when he was standing out in the field. He had just been weaned,” she said.

“He was at Jim Squires’ place in Lexington. I bought him for $100,000. I took him to Saratoga and he sold for $70,000, so I bought him back. I sold him as a 2-year-old in training at Calder for $170,000.”

Smith owns a 50-acre training center, Murray Smith Training Stables, in Ocala, Fla. Her friend and fellow horsewoman Rebecca Haydyn runs it now. Smith currently has three horses in training at Del Mar. All are 3-year-old fillies. Unveil the Mask is with Peter Miller, Fun Raiser is in Bob Baffert’s barn and Storm the Church is with Jeff Mullins.