Barn shutdown has Small looking for winter home

September 08, 1994|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Sun Staff Writer

Pimlico reopens for the remainder of its 1994 live racing season today on a discordant note, at least for the trainer of Maryland's leading thoroughbred outfit.

Dick Small, who normally headquarters a division of his stable year-round at the Baltimore track, is uncertain where he will campaign the Robert Meyerhoff horses this winter, now that Pimlico management has announced plans to shut down the barn area for three months starting in November.

Among Meyerhoff's horses are a dozen stakes-winning or stakes-placed runners, plus a half dozen 2-year-olds who could be stakes material. The outfit's strongest member is Concern, ninth-richest thoroughbred in training who started his rise to prominence by winning the Arkansas Derby in April at Oaklawn Park and was recently second in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga.

Last winter, Small sent a division to Oaklawn and kept another group of horses at Pimlico with his assistant, Brenda Jordan. He said he plans to return to Oaklawn again this winter, but is uncertain where he will stable the horses once Pimlico closes.

"The time frame doesn't quite work out since Oaklawn runs from the end of January through April," Small said. "What am I going to do with the horses during the dead time in December and January? I can't move 40 to 50 horses to Laurel and Bowie as well as find housing for 20 employees or ask them to drive there from their homes in Baltimore in the worst weather of the year. Those barn areas are full anyway. How can they accommodate a stable of my size? Believe me, there is no one with a stronger loyalty to Maryland than us. But by doing what they are doing, it's almost as if we are being asked to leave the state."

Lenny Hale, vice president of racing at Pimlico/Laurel, said yesterday that all horsemen at Pimlico who want stalls at Laurel or Bowie will be accommodated, including Small. "This [closing Pimlico] is something the bank is anxious to do," he said. "We'll try to fit in everybody."

First National Bank of Maryland holds the mortgage on the tracks and wants management to curb expenses after losing $7.3 million last year.

"Fortunately, we're a pretty solvent stable and this problem is certainly solvable for us," Small said. "But how about the all the other people? It probably means more outfits will go to Florida and leave the state this winter. I haven't figured out yet what we'll do, but there are plenty of other places to race. We'll just pack up and move somewhere else. We have a training center in South Carolina, so the situation is less critical. But we don't have 50 horses that all need rest at the same time.

"Mr. Meyerhoff has some really good mares and the stallion [Broad Brush] is No. 4 in the country. We've worked hard to create all this and then this is what happens to Maryland racing. It just seems real sad."

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