Not long ago, they were fending off sarcastic snickers; today, they're taking on partners.
They're the Good Fella Stables, owner of the 3-year-old colt Smart Guy that won yesterday's $100,000 Northern Dancer Stakes at Laurel Park. It was the third stakes victory for the Maryland-bred 3-year-old and it boosted his earnings to $434,000.
This was the same Smart Guy who was purchased at the Timonium yearling sales in October 1996 for $10,000, the first acquisition for Delaware partners Dave Malatesta and Stewart Taub.
"People laughed at me when I told them I bought a horse for $10,000," said Taub, 34. "They said: 'What are you going to get for $10,000?' I guess this is what I got."
In addition to yesterday's win, Smart Guy has won the $300,000 Pennsylvania Derby and the $75,000 Francis LaBelle Memorial at Delaware Park. Good Fella Stables now has other partnerships and includes 20 horses, all trained by Tim Ritchey.
Ritchey has six wins in 20 lifetime starts from his purchase of a lifetime. Ritchey was allotted $50,000 at the Timonium sale, but only needed a bid of $10,000 to put Good Fellas in business with the son of Smarten.
"When I bought him as a yearling, people teased me about his small size," Ritchey said. "But it's not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the bite. He is all heart."
As usual, Smart Guy showed early speed and went to the front. He battled briefly with long shot Ender Wiggin, but shook free along the backstretch with little urging from Robert Colton. He received mild pressure from Pettit's Quest, but maintained a clear two-length lead through the turn and was not challenged in the stretch.
He coasted to victory in the 1 1/8-mile race in 1 minute, 50 4/5 seconds, 6 1/2 lengths ahead of a tiring Pettit's Quest, who gave up the chase but had more than enough to hold off Ender Wiggin for the place.
"This was a very easy win," Colton said. "He broke on the lead and we had everything our way the entire trip. We tried rating this horse in the past, but it doesn't seem to work at all. We've learned to let him do things his own way."
As the 4-to-5 favorite, Smart guy paid $3.80 and keyed a $16.60 exacta with Pettit's Quest.