Richard Small was alone in the winner's circle after yesterday's $75,000 Snow Goose Handicap at Laurel Park, but he didn't mind.
As owner, breeder and trainer of the powerful mare Proud Owner, he didn't have to share any credit, except with jockey Jozbin Santana. And he obliged his rider.
"That kid is a natural," Small said.
Yesterday's win for Proud Owner was a nice parallel for Small's new life. Small used to handle the free-spending stable of Robert and Harry Meyerhoff, where parties in the winner's circle were exceeded only by the pressure to win with expensive horses.
But all that changed a few months ago when the Meyerhoffs relieved Small of his duties. That left Small with a six-horse stable (compared with 40), no payroll worries and nobody to join him in the winner's circle. And, frankly, he is enjoying it.
"It sure is different," he said. "I have six horses in my stable now, and it sure is a lot easier to take care of them.
"You know, I still love this game and love what I have. I'm not sure if they really understood what they had and how to enjoy it."
Two of Small's six were running in yesterday's Snow Goose. Right behind winning Proud Owner was runner-up Tookin Down, another stakes-winning mare with the credentials of being bred, trained and owned by Small.
The 1-2 finish was a repeat of the finish in the Maryland Racing Writers Association Handicap last month, except on that day, Proud Owner was disqualified for fouling a horse in a crowded stretch run.
In the Snow Goose, the 5-year-old mare had clear sailing in winning the $45,000 first prize.
She took advantage of the hot pace set by New York shipper Sazarac Jazz and locals Inn Between and Saratoga Friends. As the front-running trio ran out of steam entering the top of the stretch, Tookin Down forged to a brief lead with Nik Goodwin aboard.
But Proud Owner made the strongest rally and blew past Tookin Down with a sixteenth of a mile to go. She covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1 minute, 51.22 seconds, prevailing by a length, and paid $4.80 to win as second choice in the field. Sazarac Jazz, the favorite, finished sixth.
It was the 10th win in 30 career starts for Proud Owner, and it pushed her career earnings to $378,000, just ahead of Tookin Down's $355,000.
At one point, Small said he considered different races for his dynamic duo, giving both a chance for a first-place check.
"I didn't do it because these two fillies were raised together and they like to race together," Small said.
"The best part about them is they love this track and the rider fits the winner perfectly."
Inn Between held on for third, a length behind Tookin Down, and keyed a $24.20 exacta.
NOTE: The name of Saturday's feature race at Laurel was incorrect in an article in yesterday's editions. The race was the $50,000-added Dancing Count Stakes.