Bobby Hurley has his sights set on something next spring other
than a basketball championship. Hurley, a former Duke point
guard, believes he has a chance to run in the Kentucky Derby.
Last February he and a minority partner spent $1 million on a
rangy, muscular 2-year-old colt named Songandaprayer (below,
with Hurley) who may prove to be a good investment.
Songandaprayer won the Huntington Stakes at Aqueduct in
November, covering six furlongs in an impressive 1:10 2/5, but
finished fifth in the Holy Bull Stakes last Saturday at
Gulfstream Park, his first race longer than a mile. "He's a
monster," says Hurley, 29, of Songandaprayer, who stands 16
hands, 3 inches. "The way he won the Huntington showed us he can
go long. Our ultimate goal is the Derby."
Only seven years ago that ambition would have seemed odd for
Hurley. After he led the Blue Devils to NCAA titles in 1991 and
'92, the Sacramento Kings made him the seventh selection of the
'93 draft. His pro career, though, almost ended as soon as it
began. On the night of Dec. 12, 1993, as Hurley was driving home
from Sacramento's Arco Arena, a station wagon being driven
without its lights on slammed into the side of his Toyota
4-Runner. Hurley's lung was torn from his trachea, and he had
broken ribs and a torn ACL in his right knee. Never the same
player after that, Hurley last played in the NBA in '98 but
didn't formally retire until last October.
Hurley, who first went to the races at Monmouth Park about 10
years ago while on summer break from Duke, bought his first
horses in 1997. He has another talented 3-year-old, Shooter, who
in August won the Sapling Stakes at Monmouth. Hurley is proudest,
however, of Songandaprayer, whom he and trainer John Dowd picked
out at the Tipton Select Sale at Miami's Calder Race Course. "I
know how an athlete moves," Hurley says. "When I saw him run, he
looked like he was doing everything so easily."
Hurley says part of the allure of racing is that he gets to spend
more time at home in Colts Neck, N.J., with his wife, Leslie, and
their daughters, Cameron, 4, and Sydney, 2. He and Leslie co-own
nine racehorses, most of whom are stabled at Aqueduct, and two
broodmares, who reside in Kentucky. "We decided to make this an
equal thing," he says. "I dragged my family around the NBA. Now I
want to see my girls grow up."
Still, Hurley hasn't ruled out a return to basketball, possibly
as a high school coach. "I'd like to help kids learn the game,"
he says. "Although if I have to go to a yearling sale in
February, the assistant coach is going to have to step up."
COLOR PHOTO: MANNY MILLAN (COVER)
COLOR PHOTO: CHUCK SOLOMON
Part of the allure of his new sport is that he gets to spend
more time with his wife and daughters.