By John Scheinman
Richard "Dickie" Small, who trained 1994 Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) winner Concern, top 1980s handicap star Broad Brush, and many other stakes winners, died April 4 at his home in Monkton, Md.
Small, 68, had been battling cancer since he was diagnosed with the disease in late 2012.
"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."
One of the most colorful characters on the Maryland racing circuit, Small began his training career in 1974. He enjoyed several high-profile stakes winners, teaming primarily with owner-breeder Robert Meyerhoff, the art collector and philanthropist from Phoenix, Md., and owner Sally Gibson.
Since Equibase began keeping detailed records in 1976, Small captured 36 graded stakes, including 10 grade I races. He won 1,163 races from 7,670 starters that amassed purse earnings of $38,432,577.
Small trained right up to the time of his death, recently with assistant Dylan Smith overseeing the barn.
"Dickie was a great horsemen and a great man. I feel incredibly fortunate to have had him in my life," said jockey Rosie Napravnik, who 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. He stayed so positive all the way to the end and I admire him for that and in so many other ways."
Napravnik was one of several female jockeys whom Small helped launch careers. Others include Andrea Seefeldt, Jerilyn Brown, and Forest Boyce, to name a few.
"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 enjoyed his greatest season in 1994 with Concern, a little Meyerhoff homebred son of Broad Brush who captured the Arkansas Derby (gr. II), finished third in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I), was second to Holy Bull in a spine-tingling Travers (gr. I), and then won the Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs. Overall, Concern posted a 7-7-11 record from 30 career starts in three seasons of racing and earned $3,079,350.
Broad Brush, who won 12 stakes for Small, retired at 4 in 1987 as Maryland's all-time money winner. The homebred son of Ack Ack finished in the money in 24 of 27 career starts and earned nearly $2.7 million for Meyerhoff. As a 3-year-old, Broad Brush won the 1986 Wood Memorial (gr. I) and finished third in both the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and Preakness. He came back the next year with two grade I 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," Blind said. "He just drove him around the Beltway and brought him back to the barn and the horse performed."
Broad Brush was a grandson of Hoist the Flag, the latter trained by Small's uncle, Sydney Watters Jr., a member of the National Racing Museum and Hall of Fame.
In perhaps Broad Brush's most famous race, he bolted to the outside rail on the far turn of the 1986 Pennsylvania Derby (gr. II), recovered under Hall of Fame rider Angel Cordero, and rallied to win by 1 1/4 lengths.
Other grade I winners trained by Small include Caesar's Wish, Tactile, and Valley Crossing.
Small 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 considered Caesar's Wish the best horse he ever trained. The Maryland-bred Proudest Roman filly won five stakes as a 2-year-old, had four added money victories at 3, including the 1978 Black-Eyed Susan (gr. II) and Mother Goose (gr. I), in which she broke Ruffian's stakes record.
Small was born in Baltimore on Dec 2, 1945. His father Doug Small Sr., was a successful trainer, and his brother Doug Small Jr., was a top steeplechase rider. He is survived by Doug Jr., and twin siblings Stephen and Sarah.
His mother, Jane Watters Small, died in 1977 and his father died in 2006.
Small served in the Special Forces in Vietnam, running highly classified parachute missions into enemy territory as a member of the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam-Studies and Observations Group.
Upon returning home in 1971, he worked as an assistant for his father and took out his own trainer's license in 1974. He won his first graded stakes that year in the John B. Campbell Handicap (gr. II) with Festive Mood.
Small's final runner was Sawitinyoureyes, who finished seventh in a maiden special weight race April 4 at Pimlico.
Funeral arrangements were pending as of the morning of April 5.