Updated on 02/18/2016 10:46AM

Harry C. Meyerhoff, owner of Spectacular Bid, dies at 86

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NYRA photo/Bob Coglianese
Spectacular Bid, owned by Harry C. Meyerhoff, won the Woodward Stakes in a walkover in 1980, and went on to be Horse of the Year.

Harry C. Meyerhoff, who campaigned 1979 Kentucky Derby winner and 1980 Horse of the Year Spectacular Bid, died Thursday at the University of Maryland Shore Medical center at Easton from complications of a stroke. He was 86.

Marengo Road, a horse owned by Meyerhoff and his son Tom, won the $75,000 Miracle Wood Stakes at Laurel Park on Monday. Afterward, Marengo Road’s trainer, Mike Trombetta, reflected on Meyerhoff’s death.

“Racing really lost a hero,” Trombetta said. “He was a wonderful man.”

Meyerhoff bought Spectaular Bid for $37,000 at the 1977 Keeneland yearling sale. He was the majority owner, with his son Tom and his then-wife Teresa Meyerhoff owning minority shares. Spectacular Bid raced under the stable name Hawksworth Farm, the Talbot County, Md. property where Meyerhoff lived for more than 40 years.

Under the care of trainer Bud Delp, Spectacular Bid won 26 of 30 starts from 2 to 4. In 1978, he went 7 for 9 and was named champion 2-year-old. His wins included three Grade 1 races, the Champagne, Young America, and Laurel Futurity.

He was named champion 3-year-old the next season after going 10 for 12, with his most important victories coming in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Florida Derby, Flamingo, Blue Grass, and Marlboro Cup. His run for the Triple Crown came to an end when he finished third in the Belmont Stakes.

Spectacular Bid, a son of Bold Bidder and the Promised Land mare Spectacular, was unbeaten in nine starts at 4 and was named champion older horse and Horse of the Year. He swept the Strub Series at Santa Anita that winter and also won the Santa Anita Handicap. He concluded his career with a walkover in the Grade 1 Woodward when three horses scratched and left him as the only starter.

Delp called Spectacular Bid “the greatest horse to ever look through a bridle.”

Meyerhoff owned many other horses over the years, including Grade 1 NYRA Mile winner Dispersal and multiple graded stakes winner Sunny Sunrise, who won 15 races and $1.3 million.

Meyerhoff was born and raised in Baltimore. He and his brother Robert E. Meyerhoff found success in residential construction, developing numerous garden apartments in Maryland. They started racing horses together in the early 1960's. Robert Meyerhoff, on his own, has campaigned the top runners Broad Brush and Concern - a son of Broad Brush - in addition to Include and recent Laurel stakes winner Candida H.

Harry Meyerhoff's wife Mary Jo preceded him in death in 2013. In addition to his brother Robert and son Tom, Harry Meyerhoff is survived by a son, Jack; a stepson, David Williams; a daughter, Karen Sweet; and eight grandchildren.

Funeral services will be private. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Foxie G. Foundation, which provides rescue, rehabilitation and home finding services for Thoroughbreds, or the Talbot Special Riders Inc., which provides physical and emotional therapy using horses.

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the no one entered against Spectacular Bid in 1980 Woodward. There were three other entrants, Dr. Patches, Temperence Hill, and Winter's Tale, but all were early scratches, leaving Spectacular Bid as the only horse with a program number.