From a Maryland Jockey Club release
Prominent Maryland trainer Richard (Dickie) Small, who conditioned 1994 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Concern, died late Friday night after a battle with cancer. He was 68 years old.
Born in Baltimore on December 2, 1945, Small attended the Gilman School, played lacrosse at the University of Delaware and served two tours of duty during the Vietnam War as a Green Beret before launching his training career in 1974.
He finished his career with 1,199 wins with earnings of $38.9 million, according to Equibase.
“Dickie was the consummate horsemen,” said Maryland Jockey Club stakes coordinator Coley Blind, a friend of Small for more than 40 years. “Horses came first. He put everything into the horses. He knew everything about his horse right down to the pimples. He was a good man and very easy to deal with from the racing office perspective.”
Small won 36 graded stakes during his career, including Grade 1 scores by Caesar’s Wish, Broad Brush and Concern.
Small considered Caesar’s Wish the best horse he ever trained. The Maryland-bred won five stakes as a 2-year-old, had four added money victories at three, including the Black-Eyed Susan (G2) and Mother Goose (G1), where she broke Ruffian’s record.
Broad Brush, who retired at age four in 1987 as Maryland’s all-time money winner, was Small’s next star. The son of Ack Ack finished in the money in 24-of-27 career starts and earned nearly $2.7 million for owner-breeder Robert Meyerhoff. As a three-year-old Broad Brush won the Wood Memorial (G1) and finished third in both the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness Stakes (G1). He came back the next year with two G1 victories: the Santa Anita and Suburban Handicaps.
“The best stories about Dickie involved Broad Brush when he would take him for a ride in the van before races to get him to relax,” added Blind. “He just drove him around the Beltway and brought him back to the barn and the horse performed.”
Broad Brush’s son Concern won the 1994 Arkansas Derby (G2) and finished third in the Preakness (G1) but peaked later that season, capturing the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) at Churchill Downs beating Tabasco Cat by a neck at the wire at odds of 7-1. He finished in the money in all 14 starts that year with earnings exceeding $2.5 million.
Small, who also conditioned multiple graded winners Tactile and Valley Crossing, won a stakes race in Maryland every year but one from 1974-2013.
“That is an amazing statistic,” Blind said. “I remember the year he didn’t do it (2003). He was so disappointed that the streak was broken.”
Small was known for helping launch the careers of female riders such as Andrea Seefeldt, Jerilyn Brown, Rosie Napravnik and Forest Boyce.
Napravnik rode her first winner for Small as 17-year-old aboard Ringofdiamonds on June 9, 2005 at Pimlico Race Course.
“I had a conversation with Dickie last week via text and he spoke of looking forward to us catching up in the spring,” Napravnik said. “He stayed so positive all the way to the end and I admire him for that and in so many other ways. Dickie was a great horsemen and a great man. I feel incredibly fortunate to have had him in my life.”
“As far as I’m concerned, the Dickie Small School of Racing is one of the best in the country,” Blind said. “For as gruff as Dickie could be, especially when he was younger, he had a knack of working well with female riders. Dickie knew what to look for in horses and people. He was a great teacher.”
Small’s father, Doug, and uncle, Sid Watters, were both well-known Maryland trainers.
Small conditioned two horses who are now in the 14-member Maryland Thoroughbred Hall of Fame, the only trainer to have done so. Broad Brush entered with the inaugural class of 2013, and that horse’s son Concern entered with the 2014 class. The latter was inducted in a ceremony Thursday evening, with breeder-owner Robert Meyerhoff in attendance.
Services for Small are still pending as of Saturday morning, according to his assistant Dylan Smith.
(Featured image, of Dickie Small trainee Broad Rule winning the Fire Plug at Laurel in January, by Laurie Asseo.)