01/07/2005 12:00AM

Legal Control leads Meyerhoff revival


Even an eight-time breeder of the year can go through a lull. Robert E. Meyerhoff, the dominant breeder in Maryland for much of the 1990's, has won numerous races over the past few years, but he has not had a major runner since Grade 1 Pimlico Special winner Include retired in 2002.

Following the efforts of Meyerhoff's horses during the last week of December, however, watch out in 2005.

Reunited with longtime trainer Dickie Small after a two-year hiatus, Meyerhoff got his first stakes win of 2004 when Perilous Night, a 3-year-old filly, captured the Squan Song Stakes at Pimlico on Dec. 26. Four days later, Take a Check, a 2-year-old filly, finished second as the odds-on favorite to Dixie Talking in Pimlico's Maryland Juvenile Filly Championship Stakes. Meyerhoff's biggest score came on the final day of the year, when Legal Control scored a commanding victory in the $100,000 Maryland Juvenile Championship Stakes.

Small, who conditioned such Meyerhoff luminaries as Grade 1-winning multi-millionaires Broad Brush and Concern, said he thought he had a talented sprinter on his hands when Legal Control was getting close to the races in July. A son of Thunder Gulch, Legal Control hit the board in his first three starts, at 5 1/2 and six furlongs. But he shined at his first trip over a mile, winning by 2 1/2 lengths on a sloppy track at Pimlico. Thirteen days later, he won in allowance company, besting his earlier 1 1/16-mile time by more than a second.

For bettors looking at the Juvenile Championship, the step up to stakes company seemed somewhat ambitious for Legal Control, who was sent off at nearly 8-1. Garnering more support were Rollicking Stakes winner Monster Chaser, the undefeated Seize, and recent New York maiden special weight winner Prideland, who was the even-money favorite. Lisaized, who finished nearly six lengths behind Take a Check when third in the Heavenly Cause Stakes, went off at odds of 9-1.

Small said he had confidence in Legal Control going into Juvenile Championship, which is the richest race for 2-year-old Maryland-breds. And Small knows this Meyerhoff-bred line well - he trained Legal Control's half-sister Hair Spray to win or place in 12 of 13 races, with the Grade 3 Safely Kept Stakes among her three stakes wins.

Following the 2 1/2-length Juvenile Championship score, Small has a number of options for Legal Control, but said he will make his decisions while Legal Control trains over the winter in Camden, S.C. Legal Control's dam, Miss Legality, won the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes, so could the Preakness - a prize that has eluded Meyerhoff - be in the future?

Legal Control has done everything right, says Small, but he points out, "The horse takes you, you don't take the horse."

Meadow Monster stock rising

While the Maryland Juvenile Championship often lives up to its billing, this year's result won't keep Declan's Moon from being named top Maryland-bred 2-year-old. The results did, however, determine the title of top Maryland juvenile sire, which Meadow Monster won over Allen's Prospect after Meadow Monster's son Monster Chaser earned $20,000 for finishing second. The final tally gave Meadow Monster $423,620 in juvenile progeny earnings for the year, less than $10,000 more than the total for Allen's Prospect. Meadow Monster also led Maryland sires by number of 2-year-old winners, with 13 from 26 starters; Allen's Prospect had 11 from 40 starters.

After standing three seasons in Florida, where he received limited support, Meadow Monster moved to Green Willow for the 2001 breeding season. A graded-stakes-winning sprinter who missed winning the

De Francis Memorial Dash by a nose, Meadow Monster has the look of a sprinter, according to Carolyn Green of Green Willow.

"He has a great hip and tremendous shoulder," she said.

Green also says that Meadow Monster has a wonderful disposition, which he passes along to his foals. "He has a beautiful head and is extremely intelligent," Green said. "He's great to work with."

Meadow Monster has proven highly popular in Maryland, covering 100 mares in each of his first two seasons at Green Willow. He was Maryland's leading freshman sire of 2001, when the first of his Florida crop foals reached the races, but 2004 could be considered his breakout year, with his first Maryland-sired crop.

"We did the right thing by bringing him here," said Green. "He's always moved up his mares. He's getting runners."