ELMONT, N.Y. - Robert E. Meyerhoff says that Include is possibly the best horse he has bred, maybe even better than Concern.
Better than Concern, who won the Breeders' Cup Classic seven years ago at Churchill Downs?
"I think he's possibly better, at least as good," Meyerhoff said. "Of course, he hasn't won a Breeders' Cup Classic."
On Saturday at Belmont Park, Maryland's Meyerhoff could become the first owner to win the Classic twice. Include, his homebred son of the famed Broad Brush, will race against the best horses in the world in the $4 million race.
The Classic is the finale of the newly named Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships, eight stakes worth $13 million featuring this continent's fastest horses plus some from Europe who might be even faster.
For Meyerhoff, the millionaire Include is further validation of his resolute faith in Broad Brush as a sire, as if further validation were needed. After breeding and racing Broad Brush in the mid-1980s, Meyerhoff supported Broad Brush at stud with a single-minded determination that raised eyebrows.
"It was a very risky strategy," said Stuart S. Janney III, a fellow Maryland breeder. "It was a lot like playing Russian roulette, where you win, and then you put all your winnings on the same thing again. If you win the second time, your winnings then become significant."
When Broad Brush retired in 1987 with earnings of $2.7 million, Meyerhoff sold 22 shares in the stallion and kept 18. At the same time, he greatly expanded his broodmare band by buying quality mares picked out solely for their potential as Broad Brush mates.
For four consecutive years, Meyerhoff sent to Broad Brush every one of his mares (except Broad Brush's mother and sisters). Meyerhoff's mares provided Broad Brush the opportunity that not every stallion gets: top-notch matings producing the best runners possible.
"I had faith in Broad Brush," Meyerhoff said. "The only way to prove it was to breed good horses to him."
Broad Brush rewarded Meyerhoff with successful runners from the start. By 1994, when Concern won the Breeders' Cup Classic, Broad Brush led all stallions in progeny earnings. He has remained one of the country's most productive sires, commanding a $100,000 fee without boasting the blood of the most popular sire lines.
"With Mr. Prospector or Northern Dancer blood, his fee would be $300,000 or $400,000," Meyerhoff said. "The success story of mine is Broad Brush. Without Broad Brush, I wouldn't have accomplished what I have been able to accomplish."
And Meyerhoff, a developer of homes and apartments, has accomplished much, and not merely on the racetrack or in the breeding shed. He and his wife, Jane, have accumulated one of the top private art collections in the world. They have bequeathed their collection of modern art to the National Gallery of Art in Washington.
In 1990, Meyerhoff founded Meyerhoff Scholars, a full-scholarship program at the University of Maryland Baltimore County for African-Americans studying to become scientists. Of the 200 Meyerhoff Scholars who have graduated from UMBC, 85 percent are pursuing doctoral degrees. Another 200 Meyerhoff Scholars are working toward degrees at UMBC.
As he has made a lasting mark on the world of art and science, Meyerhoff has made, through Broad Brush, a lasting mark on the world of thoroughbreds.
With clear vision and confidence, he has remained a breeder who breeds his mares to stallions and then races the offspring, not sells them. All 21 of his horses in training came from his own mares; 10 were sired by Broad Brush. Such private breeders have become rarer as more and more breeders turn to the sales, not the racetrack, for fortune and fulfillment.
And Broad Brush, in addition to producing successful runners, has also become a top producer of broodmares. The rare horse Meyerhoff sells is an extra well-bred filly or mare.
"He's a rarity today," Tim Capps, head of the Maryland Horse Breeders Association, said of Meyerhoff. "There just aren't too many people around who do it at his level.
"It's those kind of people who make a lot of difference to the industry. The ones they sell have good pedigrees, and they're the ones who end up out in the genetics pool."
Meyerhoff began focusing on breeding in 1973 after a 10-year racing partnership with his brother, Harry. Bud Delp trained their horses.
Meyerhoff concentrated on pedigrees and turned his runners over to trainer Richard W. Small. Harry Meyerhoff remained with Delp, and their fortunes brushed the heavens with Spectacular Bid.
Small and Robert Meyerhoff teamed up to win the Breeders' Cup Classic with Concern. Two years ago, when the seemingly inseparable pair separated, Meyerhoff turned back to Delp.
One of the potential stars in the stable was Include. For Delp, Include won his first four races. Then, he pulled a leg muscle in the Pennsylvania Derby, finishing sixth.
After a five-month layoff, Include won five races in a row, including the Grade I Pimlico Special. Then, he aggravated a splint, or small crack, in a leg bone in the Suburban Handicap at Belmont, finishing third.
After a three-month layoff, Include finished a respectable third in the Meadowlands Cup four weeks ago at the Meadowlands. That race at 1 1/8 miles set him up perfectly for the 1 1/4 miles of the Breeders' Cup Classic, Meyerhoff said.
"I wouldn't be in the race if I didn't think I had a chance to win it," Meyerhoff said. "We think he's peaking now, just at the right time."
What: Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships
Where: Belmont Park, Elmont, N.Y.
Races: Eight stakes worth $13 million
Feature: $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic
TV: Chs. 11, 4, 1-6 p.m.