The 15-year association of Robert E. Meyerhoff and Richard W. Small, one of the most successful owner-trainer relationships in Maryland racing history, has ended.
Meyerhoff, the state's leading breeder of thoroughbreds, and Small, the bow-tied trainer at Pimlico, have split in what Meyerhoff termed "an amicable divorce."
Meyerhoff said that he and Small had a "difference of opinion on some of the tactics" of training horses. He wouldn't elaborate.
"Dick and I are still good friends," Meyerhoff said. "We had a good run together, but we decided it would be better if we parted company."
Meyerhoff described the breakup as a mutual decision, but Small said he had been dismissed as Meyerhoff's private trainer.
"I really don't want to say too much about it," Small said. "We're trying to do this as amicably as possible. No sour grapes. We did very well together. I have a lot of respect for him. I would certainly hope he has the same for me."
After forging a partnership in 1984, Meyerhoff and Small had tremendous success. Meyerhoff masterminded the breeding of the horses at his Fitzhugh Farm in Baltimore County, and Small brought out their best at his barn at Pimlico.
Their greatest triumphs were Broad Brush, who earned $2.6 million in three years of racing (1985, '86 and '87), and Concern, who earned $3 million during his three-year career (1993, '94 and '95).
Broad Brush won four Grade I races, including the Santa Anita Handicap, and finished third in the 1996 Kentucky Derby and Preakness. Concern, a son of Broad Brush, won the 1994 Breeders' Cup Classic. He also finished second by a neck to Holy Bull in the 1994 Travers and third in that year's Preakness.
The state's racing industry greeted the news of the Meyerhoff-Small separation with shock.
"I'm just dumbfounded," said Snowden Carter, retired editor of The Maryland Horse magazine. "Their association's just been fantastic. I don't see how it could have been any better."
Tim Capps, executive vice president of the Maryland Horse Breeders Association, said he hopes that Meyerhoff retains his base of operation in the state. Although Broad Brush and Concern excelled nationally, most of Meyerhoff's horses race in Maryland. Eight have earned distinction as Maryland-bred champions. All were trained by Small.
"Mr. Meyerhoff is certainly a major part of the local industry," Capps said. "He's one of the few major private breeders anywhere who still breeds to race [ rather than for sale at auction]. In that sense he's one of the premier breeders in the country."
Meyerhoff said he was transferring several horses to Grover G. "Bud" Delp at Laurel Park and a few to H. Allen Jerkens at Belmont Park in New York.
Delp, who trained Meyerhoff's horses in the 1960s and '70s (and still trains for his brother, Harry Meyerhoff), said he expects to receive eight to 10 of Robert Meyerhoff's horses today.
"I'm really elated to be back with him," Delp said. "He's one of the best owners I've ever trained for. Bob loves to win, and I love to win. He's breeding some nice horses, and down the road he's going to win some nice stakes."
Delp said perhaps the best Meyerhoff horses he'll receive are Proper Broad, a promising 2-year-old filly, and Jovial Brush, a 3-year-old stakes-winning colt.
But for Stellar Brush, the future is unclear. Stellar Brush was removed from training after suffering cuts on his front legs while finishing third Sept. 5 in the Remington Park Derby in Oklahoma City.
In that race the highly regarded 3-year-old lost the chance of earning a $1 million bonus for the horse that wins the Ohio Derby (which Stellar Brush did in July), the Remington Park Derby and the Super Derby this weekend at Louisiana Downs. Neither Meyerhoff nor Small would say whether losing the bonus contributed to the split.
Meyerhoff said he hasn't decided who will train Stellar Brush after his cuts heal.
As for Small, losing 30 Meyerhoff horses "is like a company closing," he said. He's left with 10 or 12 that he owns or trains for others. Small said the hardest part will be laying off some of his devoted staff.
Asked whether he would remain in Maryland, Small said: "It's hard to say. I'll stay until I have no other choice. I've always felt that whenever one door closes, another door opens."
Pub Date: 9/30/99