Hall of Fame Trainer Bud Delp Dies

Hall of Fame Trainer Bud Delp Dies
Photo: Jeffrey Snyder
Bud Delp, Hall of Fame trainer of legendary Spectacular Bid.

(From Maryland Jockey Club)
Hall of Fame trainer Grover G. "Bud" Delp, conditioner of the three-time champion Spectacular Bid, died Friday night at his Ellicott City home due to cancer. He was 74.

There will be no memorial service. Delp’s body was cremated Saturday morning. His wife, Regina, three sons, a daughter and two grandsons survive him.

"He was the epitome of his profession," said Regina Delp, his wife of nearly 25 years. "He truly loved his job and said the races were won in the morning. He was a loving and generous father and husband."

The lifelong Maryland resident, inducted into racing’s Hall of Fame in 2002, saddled 3,674 winners (ninth on the all-time list) for nearly $41 million and won a stakes race with 70 different horses.

"Most of all, my dad was a father and one of my best friends," said Cleve Delp, the youngest of Delp’s sons. "We spent a lot of time together and talked about horses. There wasn’t a better person that I ever met. What he did in this business was amazing. He went from claiming cheap horses and doing a lot of the work himself, working for his step-father and pretty much hustling, to reaching the pinnacle of his profession."

Delp is best known for Spectacular Bid, who won the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and Preakness Stakes (gr. I) in 1979. A year later, Delp guided him through an undefeated campaign, winning all nine races en route to Horse of the Year honors, earning Delp an Eclipse Award as top trainer. Bid’s career mark was 30 starts, 26 wins (23 stakes), two seconds and one third, with earnings of $2,781,608.

"I don't think we've seen anything like him since," Delp said in 2002.

Delp also trained Include  , winner of the 2001 Pimlico Special (gr. I) and Sweet Alliance, who won the 1977 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I). Delp had seven Pimlico training titles to his credit and topped the Laurel Park standings six times in a career that began when Our Rocky won at Laurel in the fall of 1962. He reached the 3,000-win milestone in 1990.

"He worked for everything he had," added Cleve Delp. "He was an extremely hard worker and an extremely passionate person, very fair with his employees and a good friend to so many people. A total horseman – probably appreciated horses more than he appreciated people. He said horses don’t talk but they talk to you in other ways. He said, if you want to be a horse trainer, you can’t go to a classroom and learn how to be a horse trainer. You have to be with the horses and have a communication with them that you develop by being around them."

Bud Delp was introduced to racing very early in his childhood. His mother, Kathleen, married horseman Raymond Archer when Buddy, as she had nicknamed him, was 9, six years after the accidental death of his father, Richard Delp. Delp worked around the farm and at the racetrack when time would permit during his teenage years, acquiring a real liking for the racehorse business.

At the age of 20, he was drafted into the army and served his active duty until November 1954. After his discharge from the service, he went to work full time for his stepfather after a brief stint at the University of Maryland. For the next seven years, he worked long and hard developing the foundational skills and expertise that would eventually take him to the top of the Thoroughbred industry. After serving as Archer's assistant, Delp decided it was time to go out on his own.

By the fall of 1963, Delp had built a stable of 26 horses which would power him to his first leading training title in Maryland at Laurel Park. In the latter part of the 60's he battled King Leatherbury and Richard Dutrow for training supremacy in Maryland.

He had gained respect throughout the mid-Atlantic region, which led to his association with Harry and Robert Meyerhoff. Together they claimed horses and started frequenting the yearling sales searching for potential stakes caliber horses. Along with the Meyerhoffs, Delp acquired Green Lantern Stable, Mr. James Bayard (and later his son Samuel) and Winfields Farms. His business relationship with the Meyerhoff and Baynard families extended more than 40 years.

"That is a testament to their mutual respect and affection," said Regina Delp.

His career and success carried him all over the East Coast during the 70's as he captured training titles at Pimlico, Laurel, Bowie, Delaware Park, Atlantic City, and Monmouth Park, where he set a record for most wins for the meet in 1972. His ability to claim and win was phenomenal. One season at Monmouth he shipped in with 38 horses and left with 38 horses, though only three were from the original 38.

In 1977, Delp attended the Kentucky yearling sales with Harry Meyerhoff and his son, Tom, and made a purchase of the gray son of Bold Bidder that began the legend of Spectacular Bid. After dominating his rivals in 1978 and 1979, he culminated his career with a walkover in the 1980 Woodward (gr. I). He galloped the 1 1/4-mile distance by himself with Bill Shoemaker aboard faster than most horses have ever run the distance.

"You could argue he was the greatest horse of all-time," said Gerald Delp, the conditioner’s middle son. "I know my dad thought so. That was the highlight of his career."

In August of 2002, Delp was inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame in the presence of many of his family and friends. He and his wife went to visit the Bid that summer along with their children, Pajeen and Cleve. They weren't born when ‘Bid was running and never had a chance to see him. His two oldest sons were also very much a part of his life. Gerald is the jockey agent for Rod Madigral while Doug helped at the barn in the morning before going to his paving business. Delp enjoyed the fact that he saw all four of his children often.

"We're a close family," Delp said four years ago. "It's been a great life. Few men will ever know what it's like to have a horse like Spectacular Bid. I can't describe it. It's something you have to experience."

"My dad wasn’t a very emotional person, but when he found out he was inducted into the Hall of Fame, I remember the first thing he did was tear up," said Cleve Delp. "He said this was something they can’t take away from me. The Hall of Fame plaque hung in his office. The racing game was good to him, and a lot of people in the sport appreciated his presence during the years."

On Monday afternoon at Laurel Park, the last horse to run with Grover Greer Delp as the trainer will be Crafty Bear, the 9-5 favorite in the $90,000 Dancing Count Stakes at Laurel Park.

"The chief's gone but we're going to continue to do what it takes," Cleve Delp said. "He loved to develop young horses, and this is just another horse that he's developed into what looks like a horse that's going to be around for a while.

"It would be great to have him win because the last win picture I have with my dad is with this horse."

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