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This Star Is Sixth, or Next to Last

Los Alamitos: After poor performance in $8,000 allowance race, Ricks Natural Star's owner says, 'I still think he's a stakes horse.'

November 16, 1996|BILL CHRISTINE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Ricks Natural Star wasn't last, and he didn't get beat by 180 lengths.

But he didn't win, either. With his eccentric owner, William Livingston, watching quietly from a standing position near the finish line, Ricks Natural Star finished sixth, beating only one horse, in an $8,000 allowance race at Los Alamitos Friday night.

"I'm disappointed, but I'm not devastated," the 67-year-old veterinarian from Artesia, N.M., said. "I still think he's a stakes horse."

Livingston received a $5,000 appearance fee from Los Alamitos, but he missed out on the $40,000 bonus that Ricks Natural Star could have earned by winning the race. Last month it cost Livingston $40,000 to run his only horse at Woodbine, where the 7-year-old thoroughbred gelding was literally 30 seconds late reaching the finish line in the $2-million Breeders' Cup Turf.

Maybeintyme won Friday's race, beating Mr Diddy Wa Diddy by 4 1/4 lengths and running 870 yards in :44.84, less than a second slower than the track record. Favored Oh Le Bo finished third and Score More, the only thoroughbred in the field besides Ricks Natural Star, was fourth. Maybeintyme paid $11.30 to win.

Ricks Natural Star, winless since 1993, lost his 10th consecutive race and was beaten for the 23rd time in 25 starts. He was last halfway around and overtook Supply Sider, a 2-1 shot, in the stretch to avoid finishing last. The difference between Maybeintyme and Ricks Natural Star was 11 lengths.

"He felt strong going to the gate, and then he broke like a thoroughbred," said Adolfo Rodriguez, who rode Ricks Natural Star. "Then he got tired, but he finished OK. He did better than I thought. I thought he might be last and finish 10 lengths behind the next horse."

Ricks Natural Star's race in the Breeders' Cup was his first in 14 months.

On Friday night, before a crowd estimated at 4,000, Ricks Natural Star was actually the early favorite in the betting. He was 4-5 with 19 minutes to post, but finally went off at 10-1, the fifth choice in the seven-horse field. Waiting for the race to be run, the avuncular Livingston stood on the apron next to the winner's circle, autographing programs for several fans who came by.

Out of $37,755 in the win pool, $2,767 was bet on Ricks Natural Star, $100 of it by Livingston, who said he bought a ticket for his jockey. At Woodbine, Livingston made a $500 across-the-board bet on his horse.

"At least we beat one horse," Livingston said Friday night. "The horse was in the hunt. I'm not ashamed of him. We had no excuses."

Livingston said that he would transport the horse today by van to Turf Paradise in Phoenix, where he will look for some more races.

"The trouble is, he'll have to run in claiming races there, and I'm afraid somebody will take him," Livingston said. "I don't want to run him in those kind of races, but I'm afraid I'll have to."

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