Yes, says Teresa Meyerhoff, people think she married Harry for his money and no, she says, she did not. "There are subtle things. No one would ever say it to my face. It's intimations." Her voice moves up, ever so slightly on the register. "Well," she mimics, "you came from a humble family and now you're wealthy." She smiles rather thinly.
"And I say yes. I say I've worked before and I can work again if he lost everything tomorrow...and Harry knows it. Harry knows I've worked before and I can work again and Harry knows I didn't marry him for his money."
The veiled hint, the implied understanding that a wealthy older man's only possible attraction is his money, already has surfaced in the publicity storm gathering around Spectacular Bid's assault on the Triple Crown.
Already a columnist for an afternoon newspaper has described Terea Meyerhoff as "Spectacular Bid's old owner's young wife." "The thing that really p-----me off was being the young wife of the old owner," says Teresa Meyerhoff." "That was really tacky. If he thinks 50 is old, then I feel sorry for him. He doesn't have far to go.
"Harry's 19 years older than I am. We have no problems with that. People sometimes think I'm Harry's daughter. We laugh. Americans are very age conscious. We just don't think of our age difference."
Teresa entered college in 1971, at age 23, studying psychology at the Antioch extension in Baltimore, supporting herself by working as a waitress, secretary and bartender, which is what she was doing the day Harry Meyerhoff came into O'Henry's. "He came in and that was it. Sort of."
They soon formed a partnership in Harry Meyerhoff's horses, which then were mostly undistinguished claimers running on Maryland tracks. And they lived together in Baltimore for three years until they moved to Hawksworth on the Eastern Shore, which they purchased in September 1976.
They were married in February 1977 after Harry's divorce became final. Living with them on the farm are her two sons, 14 and 13, who had been living with their grandparents but rejoined their mother in 1977. "We got married because it was advantageous tax-wise," says Teresa Meyerhoff. "I felt married to him from the day we started living together."
The original farmhouse at Hawksworth was built in 1810 and has been added upon and improved over the decades. "We call it our simple country house because it is unpretentious, which is the way we are," says Teresa. "Which doesn't mean we don't enjoy our wealth. We do, but it doesn't mean we flaunt it." On the 320-acre estate are a pool, tennis court, and a nine-acre pond with peacocks and swans "Harry gave me for my birthday.
"This horse is not going to change our lives," she says. "We don't live ostentatiously." They go together to the horse sales in Keeneland, Ky., and spend a month each year in Acapulco. That, she says is her big vacation. "Our days are mostly together. When I say 24 hours a day, I mean we are together 24 hours a day. I think I'm very lucky to have the relationship I have. A love affair is one thing, but he truly is my best friend.
"I'd be a hypocrite if I said the money wasn't nice. It's great. I love it. But the money isn't what attracted me. I didn't even know the Meyerhoff name.
"After I met Harry, somebody, a friend of mine, said do you know who he is? I said yes. He's Harry Meyerhoff. My friend said yes, but do you know who that is? That's a very big name. I didn't know, and then I thought about it. I remembered from going to the symphony that the Meyerhoffs had donated to the symphony."
Teresa dropped out of school after she met Harry. "I never got my degree. I met Harry and felt there were other things more important.
"I'm a wife and mother now. People says, what do you do all day? I say I run a house. I run an estate. We have a very active social life. That's not nothing. I'm very busy. It's all the things I want to do.If anyone wants to pick on that, then I'm sorry. I'm perhaps not contributing to society because I don't punch a clock, but then I don't detract from society, either."
Teresa Meyerhoff, clearly, is happy with her life and her lifestyle.She is not about to change it to have more children ["I couldn't go through"], and she does not seem at all awed by the notoriously stuffy racing establishment. "I assume they're just people."
But there was this ball, held last Friday night under an enormous pink tent on the grounds of Hialeah racetrack. It was called the Flamingo Ball and it was a cancer benefit. Fund-raising games including auctioning off stud services of four top Florida stallions. It was the kind of Do where the racing establishment pours it on for charity, and the Meyerhoffs, who own the biggest drawing card in thoroughbred racing right now, somehow were not invited. "I am," says Teresa mildly, "a little curious why."
"Teresa Meyerhoff, the seventh child of a dairy farmer who grew up on a failing farm in upstate New York, says she's lucky. The American dream, she says, is to be poor and grow up and be wealthy some day. That's not all there is to life, she says, but don't knock it.
"I went through times when I wasn't sure I could make my rent. I went hungry. I made it on my own. I struggled and I made it on my own."
Teresa Meyerhoff has, indeed, made it. Her 20 percent share of Spectacular Bid, alone, has made her worth millions in the mere eight months Bid has been racing. "Harry," she says, "has made me independently wealthy," and she's not apologizing for her good fortune at all. Not one bit.
"I've been happly and I've been unhappy," she says with a grin. "I've been poor and I've been rich. And I can tell you rich is a whole lot better. And I can't feel guilty about it. I don't want to."