Bud Delp, a Thoroughbred trainer whose best horse, Spectacular Bid, was the 1979 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner, died Friday at his home in Ellicott City, Md. He was 74 and had been battling cancer.
Elected to racing's hall of fame in 2002, Delp will be best remembered for his success with Spectacular Bid, considered one of the greatest horses in history.
The horse, purchased for $37,000 as a yearling, won 26 of 30 starts and earned nearly $2.8 million for Hawksworth Farm, owned by Teresa and Harry Meyerhoff. The gray racehorse, sired by Bold Bidder, finished worse than third only once.
Delp, who saddled 3,674 winners and won numerous training titles in Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey, sang the praises of Spectacular Bid, calling him the "best racehorse ever to look through a bridle."
On the verge of becoming the sport's third consecutive Triple Crown winner in 1979, following Seattle Slew and Affirmed, Spectacular Bid was derailed by a safety pin and a poor ride by young jockey Ron Franklin in the last leg of the series, the Belmont Stakes.
The colt stepped on a stray safety pin in his stall before the Belmont race and the pin became embedded in his left front hoof. Delp considered scratching the horse but was satisfied with how he jogged.
Ridden with little patience by Franklin, Spectacular Bid weakened to finish third, behind winner Coastal and Golden Act. He developed an infection as a result of the safety pin mishap and didn't race for more than two months.
"I still believe Bid would have won that day had Ronnie ridden a better race," Delp told The Times in 2003 when Spectacular Bid died of a heart attack at 27. "It was the only race in his life where a horse passed him in the stretch."
A champion as a 2- and 3-year-old, Spectacular Bid was even better at 4, having arguably the greatest single year of any Thoroughbred.
En route to 1980 horse-of-the-year honors, Spectacular Bid won all nine of his races under jockey Bill Shoemaker, taking the Strub Series and Santa Anita Handicap as well as stakes in Illinois, New Jersey and New York.
Grover Greer Delp was born Sept. 7, 1932, in Creswell, Md., and grew up working with horses. He had his first winner in 1962 at Laurel Park in Maryland, and will have one more horse run there in his name Monday. Crafty Bear, the 9-5 morning line favorite, is scheduled to run in the $90,000 Dancing Count Stakes.
"It would be great to have Crafty Bear win," Delp's youngest son, Cleve, said Saturday, "because the last win picture I have with my dad is with this horse."
No memorial service is planned for Delp, who was cremated Saturday. In addition to his son Cleve, he is survived by his wife, Regina; sons Doug and Gerald; a daughter, Pajeen; and two grandchildren.