Del Carroll looked at his entries for Preakness Day 1972, and knew he needed help. The exercise girls would have to come back in the afternoon – walk over with the runners, help the grooms, hotwalk back at the barn.
Carroll called a morning meeting in the tackroom of his barn on the Pimlico Race Course backside.
“We’ve got all these horses running and we don’t have enough help,” he said. “We need a couple volunteers to work.”
Zero hands raised. The Preakness was an event and nobody – least of all young people in the racing community – wanted to miss out. The infield, the parties, the fun beckoned. But Carroll didn’t give up easily.
“OK,” he said. “Let’s draw straws.”
So they drew. Robin Martin drew a short straw and still remembers the feeling.
“I drew the Preakness,” she said in late March. “I was happy about it, but not real happy.”
Martin would walk over with Bee Bee Bee, the Carroll stable’s longshot runner in the Preakness Stakes, so she was happier than the co-workers who drew lesser races but not nearly as happy as those headed to a day in the infield.
“My family was from Maryland, all of them, I knew the Preakness and I wanted to be in the infield,” she said. “Well, that was not happening.”
Instead, she played a role in Bee Bee Bee’s upset of Kentucky Derby winner Riva Ridge and five others in the second jewel of the Triple Crown on a wet, rainy, foggy Saturday. The groom Joey (whose last name is lost to history), one hand on the bridle’s chin strap and the other clutching a horse cooler, made the cover of The Maryland Horse magazine along with Carroll and owner Will Farish. Martin made page 26, a full-page photo of her holding Bee Bee Bee for a post-race bath – mud splattered on her bell-bottoms, a smile on her face.
The Carroll barn, which won the race before the Preakness with Chateauvira, and its staffers stood atop the racing world. Fifty years later, it’s still a moment.
Martin, then 17, married Carroll’s son Del II who also became a trainer. They’re retired from racing and live in Wilmington, N.C. In late March, they were on a boat in the Florida Keys, but tacked backward 50 years to remember Bee Bee Bee and a long-ago time with a far-reaching impact.
“My husband and I were not together, we started dating that fall, and he was in Florida then [pondering a career with horses or going back to college], but I was there,” said Robin. “We walked over. In that slop, it was not easy. It was overwhelming – the crowd, the mud, the reactions from everybody. We’d been stabled at Pimlico since coming up from Florida, so people knew us.”
The 1972 Preakness revolved around Riva Ridge. Champion 2-year-old of 1971 on the strength of seven wins in nine starts, the Meadow Stable runner ran away with the Blue Grass at Keeneland April 27 and then demolished the Derby field May 6. Two weeks later, most expected the same in the Preakness.
“It would take no genius to pick the winner of the 97th Preakness tomorrow,” John Schulian wrote in Friday’s Baltimore Evening Sun. Sun turf writer Bill Boniface made Riva Ridge his best bet of the day and used the comment, “A true champion – thus far” in his graded entries.
Champion Maryland-bred 2-year-old of 1971 thanks to five wins, Bee Bee Bee began his sophomore season by changing owners. Breeder Bill Miller sold 21 horses to Farish, then 33 and in the early stages of a long career in racing. Carroll trained for both men, so Bee Bee Bee went to Florida with the stable. Things did not go well. The dark bay son of Better Bee lost all three starts: the Hutcheson and Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park and the Flamingo at Hialeah.
Looking for a change, Carroll moved his horses to Maryland early and Bee Bee Bee responded with a third in the Challedon Stakes April 8, a win on the turf April 21, another win in the Survivor Stakes April 29 and a fifth in the Woodlawn back on turf May 6 – all at Pimlico.
Better if not spectacular, the form sent Bee Bee Bee to the Preakness. The Carroll stable was cautiously optimistic.
“The jockey, Eldon Nelson, was Mr. Cool, like Pat Day, he never got ruffled,” said Robin. “We kind of felt good about it going in. The biggest thing was the fact we had been stabled there. We left Florida and went straight to Pimlico. We had a good horse, who liked the mud, a good trainer and a patient rider, but we were going up against Riva Ridge and some other nice horses.” Beyond the barn, others didn’t offer much hope.
Trainer Juan Arias, who won the Preakness a year earlier with Canonero II, and entered Hassi’s Image this time, offered a simple analysis. “Riva Ridge will win,” he told The Sun. “But from there on, it will be a good race for second.”
About Bee Bee Bee, Boniface simply wrote “Has speed, but not this much.”
Sent off at 18-1 by a crowd that swelled to a record 48,721 despite the weather, Bee Bee Bee broke from the outside, rolled alongside Eager Exchange and Key to the Mint coming to the finish line the first time and took over.
As Bee Bee Bee rolled to the front, Robin shouted, “This is it, this is it.” And it was. Bee Bee Bee never wavered, staying clear while within himself, building a lead of 4 lengths in the stretch and splashing to the finish by 1 1/4 lengths ahead of No Le Hace with Key to the Mint third. Favored at 3-10, Riva Ridge labored home fourth.
The mud helped. Being at home helped. But Bee Bee Bee showed up, on his biggest day, prepared to deliver the race of his life. Carroll, who trained Bee Bee Bee’s sire and dam, didn’t brag afterward. He didn’t shrink either. The Preakness win was an upset, but the trainer was a World War II veteran, a star polo player and a guy with 1,400 wins, three trips to the Kentucky Derby including a fifth with Bee Bee Bee’s full-brother Abe’s Hope in 1966 and a reputation for not being outworked.
“In this business, you have to be an optimist,” Carroll told The Sun’s Dale Austin afterward. “Ever since last summer, I said he would be better than Abe’s Hope . . . We learned that he was a poor shipper. Didn’t react well at all to traveling so we brought him to Pimlico and stayed.”
A few days ahead of the race, Bee Bee Bee blew out 5 furlongs in :583⁄5, when Carroll would have been happy with 1:00, and came through when it mattered. The victory didn’t ignite the seemingly state-wide celebration that came with Deputed Testamony’s 1983 Preakness win, but still felt like one for the locals. Bee Bee Bee was the seventh (of now eight) Maryland-breds to win the state’s signature race.
Born in Pennsylvania, Carroll raced in the Mid-Atlantic and also took his navy-blue-and-white tack boxes to Kentucky, Illinois, Florida, Arkansas, New York, wherever horses ran.
“Del was hands-on, a damn good trainer, but he was aloof, yeah kind of aloof but not in a bad way, and he was a guy who traveled,” said veterinarian Dr. Jim Stewart, who did work for Carroll in Maryland and Delaware then. “He was at the barn early, and it was not unusual for him to come back in the afternoon and check his horses late. He got that horse ready, it was a sloppy track and I remember just thinking he would like it, and he won the Preakness.”
A Maryland-Bred Winner
Bee Bee Bee owes his Maryland roots to an Illinois foxhunting pack. Once chairman of the Illinois Racing Board and majority owner of Balmoral Park racetrack, Miller kept his mares with Carey Rogers, who doubled as the huntsman of the Mill Creek Hounds, where Carroll hunted and served as whipper-in.
Carroll trained the Miller horses, including 20-race winner Better Bee and his son, the Illinois-bred star Abe’s Hope. Better Bee defeated Round Table in the 1959 Equipoise Mile at Arlington Park. Abe’s Hope lost the 1966 Flamingo by a nose to Buckpasser, was disqualified from a win in the Florida Derby, ousted Graustark in the Blue Grass and finished fifth behind Kauai King in the Derby.
Rogers and his wife Beth moved to Virginia and then Maryland, buying 158-acre Goodwill Farm in Harford County near Monkton in 1967 to foxhunt with Elkridge-Harford, board mares, raise foals, sell yearlings at Timonium and catch the wave of the Maryland Fund’s breeder incentives. Miller sent five mares. Formerly the home of breeders Mr. and Mrs. James Park, Goodwill soon came to life with quality Thoroughbreds.
Miller’s mare Paula, a daughter of French-bred stallion *Nizami II, foaled a dark bay colt in April 1969. He made an early impression at Goodwill Farm. “He liked to play hide and seek with Paula,” Rogers told Snowden Carter in The Maryland Horse’s Preakness coverage. “Turn them out and the mare spent half her time trying to find the foal. He was always full of himself. Sort of a ham. Standing in the field with his ears pricked forward and his eyes sparkling. Then he’d wheel around and gallop off as fast as his legs would carry him.”
Maryland horseman Don Litz worked for Rogers at Goodwill a few years later and recalled a gracious teacher and sharp horseman.
“I didn’t come from the horse world, I was a real nobody and he really helped me,” said Litz, whose job primarily involved exercising the foxhunters. “He was a wonderful guy, had a beautiful farm and a really nice broodmare barn.”
The entrance to Goodwill was on Hess Road, east of Jarrettsville Pike, then. Today, accessed via a long driveway from Jarrettsville Pike, it’s called Willow Oaks and is the home of Caroline Stautberg, who bought the property with her late husband Jerry in 1985.
When told a Preakness winner had been born on her farm, Stautberg replied, “I haven’t heard that except from you – hope it’s true.”
For Miller, Bee Bee Bee made nine starts as a 2-year-old, winning at Pimlico, Aqueduct and Timonium (twice). He set a track record for 7 furlongs at the latter, then a half-mile track, while winning by 17 lengths and backed up that performance with a victory in the All Maryland Handicap under 128 pounds. Carroll and Bee Bee Bee traveled to Chicago in late September, and took down the Hawthorne Juvenile Stakes, to cap 1971. The champion Maryland-bred 2-year-old received a 112 rating on the Experimental Free Handicap (14 pounds below Riva Ridge).
With Bee Bee Bee awaiting a 3-year-old campaign, Miller was indicted in federal court for his role in improper racetrack stock deals (along with former Gov. Otto Kerner and three others; Miller eventually testified for the prosecution) and sold his Thoroughbred holdings to Farish.
Bee Bee Bee kept right on training.
“I was the only one that could gallop him because he was kind of difficult,” Carroll’s former assistant Heather Buchanan said in April. “He wasn’t a big horse, very pretty but kind of slender – 16 hands, maybe 16.1 – not big and stout, very attractive and really dark. He pulled really hard, I used to have to gallop him in draw reins.”
Bee Bee Bee didn’t ship well, and Carroll blamed the poor starts in Florida at least partially on the horse’s dislike of the new surroundings and even the short van rides to Gulfstream from Hialeah. Back in Maryland, everything was different as Bee Bee Bee raced five times in six weeks – from his own stall – leading to the Preakness.
“He showed us he liked this track by winning those two here [the Survivor and the turf allowance],” Carroll told The Sun. “But he’s a generous horse . . . He is a ham. He’s always looking around, coming out for a race. But he’s an honest horse.”
Standing next to Carroll a race before the Preakness, Buchanan watched Chateauvira win from the front and hoped for the same from Bee Bee Bee.
“Del picked his spots and he wanted the Preakness so we got to Pimlico early,” she said. “Then the horse did it. That was so exciting. I was really happy for Del and it was just great for the barn. We were like nobody, compared to some of those other outfits. It was great to see those black-eyed Susans on the rail the next morning. The whole barn was just overjoyed and you know in the morning everybody’s saying congratulations and everything – you just felt like you were really something.”
A Horse Trainer
The 1972 Preakness was Del Carroll’s only classic win, but it was far from a rare success. His Equibase statistics report dates to 1938 (he was 19), shows a gap of no starts 1942-47, begins again in 1948, misses another three years before re-starting in 1952 and continuing for 30 years more.
Born in West Chester, Pa., Carroll rode show horses and attended Pennsylvania Military College on a polo scholarship. An Army lieutenant, he fought in World War II and afterward took a job selling cars (and playing polo) in Chicago. He became one of the top polo players in the world – reaching an eight-goal rating in 1949 and holding it for 10 years. His teams won U.S. Open titles in 1959, 1967 and 1974 and he became a polo Hall of Famer. His mount Magazin (an Argentine-bred Thoroughbred originally named Magasin) is on the Hall of Fame’s Horses to Remember list.
In the midst of that success, Carroll also became a leading trainer of his time, winning everywhere from that signature barn behind the track kitchen at Delaware Park to other set-ups at Arlington Park, Oaklawn, Saratoga, Hialeah, Churchill Downs and beyond.
He won 2,224 races. In 1961, 1967 and 1980, he topped 100 wins in a single season. His horses earned more than $19 million in purses. One report credited him with 89 stakes winners, second to Charlie Whittingham at the time. North American stakes weren’t graded until 1974, but Carroll won 13 graded stakes.
In 1980, he conditioned 2-year-old filly Sweet Revenge to graded stakes triumphs in the Schuylerville, Adirondack, Astarita and Alcibiades. The same season, Carroll-trained 4-year-old Clever Trick won seven of eight starts (topped by Aqueduct’s Gravesend Handicap in December). All the More won 23 of 83 starts for Carroll – from the 1975 Marlboro Nursery at Bowie to the 1980 Razorback Handicap-G3 at Oaklawn.
“He was one heck of a horseman, in every way,” said Robin. “He didn’t have a set pattern for training. He just felt like every horse was an individual. Some horses you blow out the day before. Some you don’t. That was his big thing, treat them as individuals.”
Carroll trained future leading sire Raja Baba for Michael Phipps, rode the fortunes of Wilson from Better Bee to Abe’s Hope to Bee Bee Bee, teamed up with Farish for a slew of stars and was at or near the peak of the business when it all came crashing down.
The leading trainer at Keeneland’s spring meet in 1982, Carroll was riding Farish stakes winner Sportin’ Life early on the morning of May 5. Alone, in the dark, Sportin’ Life spooked, bucked, ran off, did something no one saw and came back to the barn riderless.
“He took Sportin’ Life out by himself, it was pitch black and I was in the barn waiting to go out on the real first set,” said Klo Carroll, the trainer’s wife. “I’ll never forget it. Sportin’ comes galloping down through the barns at Keeneland. You know how they drop down? He was running through them and Del wasn’t on him. I ran up to the track and by the time I got to him an ambulance was there.”
Carroll suffered skull fractures and died at a Lexington Hospital four days later. He was 62.
When she asked for a hotwalking job at Delaware Park, Klo called her future husband Mr. Carroll. “Have you ever walked hots before?” he asked from the saddle of his lead pony. She lied. And worked her way up to groom, rider and – 11 years later – family.
She rode to the hospital with her husband. The surgeons were optimistic at first, but Carroll never regained consciousness. Thirty years younger than her husband, and his third wife, Klo Carroll came back to the farm near Fair Hill, Md., with their daughter Larkspur.
“I had to make that horrible trip home with my 2-year-old,” Klo said. “The Farishes took care of everything with the horses, the whole community came together to help. It was certainly a Cinderella ride for me – Saratoga in the summer, Keeneland, all the places we went. We were only married three years.” Down to 20 acres from 120, the farm on Old Elm Road is still Klo’s home.
There’s a giant poster of the Preakness program somewhere, the trainer’s trophy, winner’s circle photos for days and scores of memories.
Del Carroll loved winning races, but he might have loved training horses more.
“He was an amazing trainer,” Klo said. “You know how people give the horses off on Sunday or whatever now? He would say, ‘A horse deserves a day off a week, but they don’t necessarily need the same day off a week.’ We seemed to work seven days a week, but it didn’t feel like work. He would not short cut.”
Stewart, the veterinarian, recalled a Carroll horse who needed stitches after cutting his head on the frame above a stall door. Because the trainer was aiming for a race, Stewart couldn’t numb or block the area. He used a straight needle instead of a curved one, put in “four or five” stitches while a groom held the horse with a twitch. Stewart worked fast, the horse tolerated it, the stitches held, the horse won, but Carroll wasn’t happy. “How could you cut the foretop off?” he asked his veterinarian.
“Del wanted to kill me,” Stewart said. “I had trimmed the hair at the poll off to get the stitches in. I had to. He was a proper person, and he wanted his animals to look just right all the time and they did. That was Del.” When Stewart thinks of Carroll, an image comes to mind of the trainer on polo pony turned lead pony – Banjo or maybe Studly Dudley if not the legendary Magazin – at Delaware Park.
“He used to stand by the big tree around the seven-eighths pole or so, near where the picnic grove is and watch his horses train, usually talking to somebody,” Stewart said. “He’d chat and watch his horses gallop past.” Every now and then, a Carroll horse would be going a little too fast. “Mr. Carroll, Mr. Carroll, Mr. Carroll,” came the plea from the exercise rider. “I can’t pull up.”
Carroll flew into action.
“Del would spin that lead pony on a dime and break and had the horse caught in three-sixteenths of a mile,” said Stewart, “with Del in perfect seat the entire time.”
Farish wasn’t exactly new to racing in 1972, but was near the beginning of a career with few peers. Fifty years later, he has bred more than 300 stakes winners, raced at least 165. Seven years after Bee Bee Bee, the Texan bought the 240-acre Bosque Bonita Farm in Kentucky. It would expand to the 1,800-acre Lane’s End Farm – home to some of the world’s leading stallions, classy broodmares, a sales division and more. Farish won Eclipse Awards as the outstanding breeder of 1992 and 1999, received an Eclipse of Merit in 2009 and in 2019 was inducted into racing’s Hall of Fame as a Pillar of the Turf. Farish/Lane’s End names include Horses of the Year Mineshaft, A.P. Indy and Charismatic, champion Lemon Drop Kid, Preakness winner Summer Squall and dozens of others. Mineshaft, A.P. Indy and Lemon Drop Kid hail from female families trained by Carroll. The Lane’s End cemetery includes the remains of Carroll trainees Weekend Surprise, Up the Flagpole, Lassie Dear and Bold Bikini.
Like many connections in Carroll’s life, his partnership with Farish started on the polo field.
“Dad adored the guy,” said Farish’s son Bill, of Lane’s End. “They played polo together for years and Del was pretty notorious as a player, really good. He sounded like an amazing horseman, and he was just starting to get better horses when he died because Dad was starting to get more into it with better mares and a better breeding program.”
Instead, those future Farish horses went to Carroll’s son Del, Neil Drysdale, Neil Howard and others in time. Life and racing, somehow, moved on without Del Carroll in it.
With a young child, and a farm he enjoyed, he’d given at least some thought to establishing a more-permanent racing base.
“He’d talked to Johnny Fisher about Fair Hill Training Center,” said Klo of the facility which opened in 1983. “Del would have loved that. It would have been a great home base and he didn’t mind shipping.”
A veterinarian (dogs, cats, horses), Klo manages the farm of 10 horses including a Great Notion mare in foal to Wicked Strong, a barren broodmare, a 3-year-old headed to the track, a 2-year-old going through early paces and a small string of others she rides around the farm and on the trails at Fair Hill.
Del Carroll’s three children, one from each marriage, followed him into horses in varying degrees.
Del II assisted his father, took over some of the stable in 1982 and trained on his own. He won a Grade 1 with Ghazi, another with Farish homebred Charleston Rag (Ire) and trained Weekend Surprise to graded wins and Grade 1 placings. He retired in 2009 and spends much of his time in a boat instead of a barn.
Daughter Robin Carroll-Bostwick turned to polo. She has played, coached and managed players, teams and clubs in Florida, South Carolina and Pennsylvania. Lark, the toddler Klo took home from Keeneland in 1982, grew up on the farm in Maryland, became a veterinarian with degrees from the University of Maryland and Ohio State. The owner of CORE Therapies, a Kentucky-based veterinary chiropractic and acupuncture business, she’s a regular at Keeneland either on racehorses or in stalls with them.
Horses were not the plan. She went to Maryland as an architecture major – intent on a Monday-through-Friday schedule, weekends off, maybe even city life.
“I was going a very different direction, but when I got away from the farm I missed it,” she said. “I spent a month in the dorm at college and I was not only lost, I was climbing the walls because I had no access to horses and it was such a different life. I was still waking up early. Nobody else was.”
She kept her major, but went to Laurel Park and galloped horses for trainers Donald Barr, Tony Dutrow and others before class. She credits a Biology 101 class, to satisfy a science requirement, at Maryland with steering her toward veterinary school.
“Dr. Higgins,” she said with a laugh. “He brought science to life for me. That’s what changed my path.”
She ran with the rest. Her patients include racehorses, sale horses, stallions, mares, foals and she was a key part of helping Horse of the Year Wise Dan find success. She came to know her father through her time at racetracks and on farms. She’s heard plenty of, “I used to work for your dad” or “I remember your dad” comments.
“When I came to ride at Laurel, I couldn’t believe how many people talked to me about him,” she said. “I learned so much more about Dad. He died when I was 2, so before I had memories of him. I didn’t know him and lose him, but the flip side is I didn’t know him at all. I knew little to nothing except pictures around the house until I moved away from the farm and got renditions from random strangers, or random strangers to me anyway.”
She got something from her father, even if she didn’t know him – Stewart is sure of it. The veterinarian and Dr. Dave Zipf were at Laurel Park one morning years ago and saw a horse misbehaving on the way to the track. The horse wheeled, jumped, spun around and tried to get out from under the rider. She never moved, never bent, never twisted. The horse straightened up and finished walking to the track.
“My God that girl’s got a seat on a horse,” Stewart told his friend. “You know, I haven’t seen anybody sit on a horse like that since Del Carroll.” Zipf laughed. “That’s Lark.”
“She’s Del’s daughter.”
Stewart still gets a shiver thinking about it.
“This was long after Del died,” he said. “I didn’t know who she was or that she was even on the racetrack. That’s DNA, that’s genes.”
Stewart later introduced himself to Lark, and shared a version of that story. “It was one of the biggest compliments I think I’d ever received,” she said. “He didn’t teach me to ride. It must be my conformation and my pedigree. There’s something there. We spend a lot of money in the horse industry on pedigree and conformation so at some point you’ve got to put your money where your mouth is and admit that it’s true.”
Lark passes the spot where her father was injured – perhaps every day – but doesn’t think about the tragedy that took something from her. Instead, she tries to think about a man she never knew and how different everything might have been.
“Here’s the thing,” she said, and turned philosophical. “What little I know about him, or learned about him, I can’t imagine that man growing old. How does a man like that ever grow old and not be miserable? The day he found his limit would have been the day his soul died. He obviously wasn’t in a place where he exhibited limits yet, and he died doing what he loved. I don’t know. It’s all different paths . . . it’s out of our hands one way or the other.”
Lark might not pause at the thought of her father getting injured on the racetrack at Keeneland, but she can’t help but think about him when she’s near Barn 27. In the fourth barn up from the track kitchen, there’s a bronze plaque on the wall, installed at the direction of then track president Bill Greely.
In Memory Of
Del W. Carroll
A Horsemen’s Horseman
October 30, 1919-May 9, 1982
The gesture by the racetrack feels important. The message brings comfort, familiarity.
“It’s right there in the middle of the barn,” she said. “I don’t know if there’s another one at Keeneland like it. There might be, but I’m not aware of it and it feels like high honors. He’s got a gravestone in Kennett Square [Pennsylvania], and I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been there. But I get the honor of walking past that tribute daily if I choose to.
“It’s an honor to be known as his daughter.”