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Track Promotion Angers Horsemen

Horse racing: Running 'road-beaten' thoroughbred Ricks Natural Star against quarter horses is called 'a mockery.'


Los Alamitos may be rolling out the carpet Friday night for Ricks Natural Star but there are trainers and owners of other horses who are unhappy and even outraged that the 7-year-old thoroughbred gelding is going to run in an 870-yard race for quarter horses.

Blane Schvaneveldt, one of the premier quarter horse trainers, said that he has horses eligible for the $8,000 race, but will not submit their names when entries are taken today.

"I don't want to support this," Schvaneveldt said. "This horse is a problem. I've seen him a few times since he got here. He's real road-beaten. He has no business running."

Ricks Natural Star, who had never run on grass, had never run farther than one mile and hadn't run anywhere in 14 months, ran in the 1 1/2-mile Breeders' Cup Turf at Woodbine near Toronto on Oct. 26. He fought for the lead for half a mile, then finished last in the 14-horse field, beaten by an estimated 180 lengths.

Los Alamitos is paying William Livingston, a veterinarian from Artesia, N.M., who owns and trains Ricks Natural Star, an appearance fee of $5,000 for Friday night's race. If the horse wins, Livingston will collect a bonus of $40,000, the amount that it cost him to run Ricks Natural Star in the Breeders' Cup. Livingston bought Ricks Natural Star last year for $3,000, after the horse had won two of 23 starts and earned $6,000, and vanned him about 2,000 miles from New Mexico to Toronto for the Breeders' Cup.

"Him running at Los Alamitos is a mockery," said Laura Pinelli, a former quarter horse trainer who now trains thoroughbreds. "To think I trained quarter horses for 21 years and now they're turning that track into a freak show. The way he ran at Woodbine, you'd think he'd be on the stewards' list. This is degrading to the few horsemen that Los Alamitos has left. It's a slap in the face to the owners who support the meet."

Ricks Natural Star is in the care of trainer Bobby Wayne Grayson at Los Alamitos. Dick Feinberg, assistant general manager at the track, said several jockeys have expressed an interest in riding him. Feinberg also said a veterinarian has examined Ricks Natural Star and the track believes the stewards will clear him for the race.

"We're just trying to have a little fun," Feinberg said. "We're not trying too offend anybody. Maybe some people are taking this a little too seriously."

Zory Kuzyk, who has been racing and breeding quarter horses for about 25 years, watched Ricks Natural Star on television as he labored around the track at Woodbine.

"I felt badly when I saw that," she said. "It sickened me. He was unfit and he looked so bad. I'd be indignant if someone even kept a horse in their backyard in a condition like that. It's things like this that are killing the industry."

Los Alamitos once ran a race for dachshunds.

"The wiener dogs got us on 'The Tonight Show,' " said Ed Allred, president of the track. "I'm sorry if some people are turning Ricks Natural Star into a cause celebre. This guy Livingston had a dream in the Breeders' Cup, and we're letting him dream a little more. I can understand that it's displeasing some people, but it's also not displeasing some other people. This might be this horse's last race. We're just giving him his last hurrah, that's all."

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