When Dick Small got a telephone call from Baltimore County millionaire philanthropist Robert Meyerhoff asking him to train his horses in 1985, little did either know he was about to create a Maryland horse racing dynasty.
There are practically no other words to describe the sensational success that the pair experienced from the start and has built on. Small has trained 14 stakes winners for Meyerhoff, won 54 stakes -- 17 graded -- and earned approximately $10 million with his horses.
In Saturday's Preakness Stakes, Meyerhoff will be running two colts, Concern and Looming, whom he foaled and raised on his farm in Phoenix.
Both were sired by Broad Brush, another Meyerhoff homebred DTC who finished third in the Preakness in 1986 and went on to become the leading Maryland-bred money earner of all time, winning four Grade I stakes and more than $2.6 million before he was retired at the end of 1987 and sent to Gainesway Farm in Kentucky.
Small is the horseman who developed all three of these Meyerhoff runners.
"I really can't see any parallel with Bob Meyerhoff's success in this state, except perhaps E. P. Taylor [breeder of the legendary Northern Dancer]," said Snowden Carter, longtime general manager of the Maryland Horse Breeders' Association and editor of Maryland Horse Magazine, who is retired.
"No one has run two Maryland-breds in the Preakness sired by a Maryland-bred stallion, and to me this fact and the other successes that he has achieved even surpasses the accomplishments of Alfred Vanderbilt, who stood Native Dancer."
Small said that from the beginning the duo clicked, largely because Broad Brush was in the first group of horses that Meyerhoff sent him.
"I thought, 'Holy Cow, look at this,' " Small said. "Mr. Meyerhoff had had horses and raced lots of winners before he came to me. But what he wanted to do was breed and race the best. And done that, largely because of Broad Brush. The thing is I feel we are just at the beginning of creating the kind of breeding and racing stable that he envisioned."
Not only is Broad Brush, now 11, proving he is a good sire, but also many of the top stakes fillies that Meyerhoff raced in recent years, such as Tactile, Starfield and Star Minister, are just now being bred and producing their first offspring. There are assorted half sisters to Broad Brush in the Meyerhoff broodmare band sired by Seattle Slew, Mr. Prospector and Fappiano, as well as producers such as Fara's Team, the dam of Concern, and Native Derby, who foaled Looming.
To make all of this work, Small said, requires an enormous team effort.
"You can spend lots of money in the horse business, but you just don't create this kind of outfit by throwing money around," he said. "It takes a joint effort from a lot of different people who all have certain skills. It's the depth of the bench that counts."
Small, 48, a former football and lacrosse player at Gilman and Penn and a Green Beret during the Vietnam War, is the leader of Team Meyerhoff.
His family has bred or raced horses in Maryland since before the Civil War. Small's grandfather, Sidney Watters, won the Maryland Hunt Cup in 1906 on Princeton. His great grandfather, Harry Thornton Pearce, was one of the founders of the My Lady's Manor races. His father, Doug Small Sr., trained a top stable of stakes horses for many years for Herman Cohen, owner of Pimlico Race Course, and his son, Nathan. Small's brother, Doug Jr., was a champion steeplechase jockey. And his uncle, Sidney Watters Jr., trained Hoist the Flag, considered one of the great thoroughbreds of all time.
Broad Brush is a son of Hoist The Flag's daughter, Hay Patcher.
Assisting Small are stable jockey Andrea Seefeldt, assistant trainer Brenda Jordan, who spent five years working for Hall of Fame jumping trainer Jonathan Sheppard and has been with Small for seven years, exercise riders such as Stacy Eggleston and Peter Drachman, veterinarian Dan Dreyfus; farrier Kevin Meeghan; Frank Schuler, who helps operate Small's training center, Pacoma Farm in Camden, S.C., and a large number of grooms who work at Pimlico and Pacoma.
Add the crew at Meyerhoff's Fitzhugh Farm in Baltimore County, and the operation employs at least 50.
All of them will be rooting on Saturday for Concern and Looming.
Small said he has no regrets about passing up the Kentucky Derby.
He jokes: "I knew all along it was going to rain."
He said he has had only two animals worthy of running in the Derby -- Broad Brush, third in 1986, and the filly Caesar's Wish, who was owned by Sally Gibson of Drumore, Pa.
As for Saturday's Preakness, Small said: "I figure Concern won the Arkansas Derby, so you pretty much have to run him. In that race, he beat Blumin Affair, who was third in the Derby. Two of the top four Derby finishers [Strodes Creek and Brocco] didn't come here. So I figure we belong.
"Then, if you follow that rationale, I consider that Looming is on par in ability with Concern. At this point, who knows which one is best? The alternative with Looming was to run him in the Peter Pan Stakes [at Belmont Park]. But he would meet Twining in that race, and that horse is undefeated on the Belmont track. So why not stay here and run in the Preakness?"
Small added that "the plethora of speed" in the Preakness will help his colts, who rally from off the pace.
"Remember, the Preakness is a long race. And we've got two horses who are going to be running at them in the stretch."
Maryland-bred winners of Triple Crown races:
Year Horse ........ ...... Race ........ Breeder
1877 Cloverbrook ....... Preakness ..... E.A. Clabaugh
1887 Dunboyne .......... Preakness ..... William Jennings
1888 Refund ............ Preakness ..... R.W. Walden
1898 Sly Fox ........... Preakness ..... Bowling Brook Stud
1939 Challedon ......... Preakness ..... Branncastle Farm
1966 Kauai King ..... Derby, Preakness.. Pine Brook Farm
1972 Bee Bee Bee ....... Preakness ..... W.S. Miller
1983 Deputed Testamony.. Preakness ..... Bonita Farm
1983 Caveat ............ Belmont ....... Ryehill Farm
A STAKES-WINNING PARTNERSHIP
Horses that have won stakes for Robert Meyerhoff since Richard Small began training for him in 1985:
Yr Horse (No. stakes wins)
'85 Broad Brush (1), Jane's Dilemma (2)
'86 Broad Brush (7), Hay Halo (2)
'87 Broad Brush (4), Jane's Dilemma (1), Hay Halo (2)
'89 Tactile (3)
'90 Starfield (1)
'91 Valley Crossing (1), Starfield (2), Star Minister (1), Sticks And Bricks (1)
'92 S. Minister (4), Val. Crossing (2), Broad Gains (1), Frottage (1), Sticks/Bricks (1)
'93 ,5 Val. Crossing (1), Tennis Lady (2), S. Minister (2), Frottage (3), Broad Gains (1)
'94 Concern (1), Broad Gains (2), Looming (3), Fleet Broad (1), Sticks/Bricks (1)