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Jockey, Gambler Charged With Fixing Arabian Races at Los Al

Horse racing: Sklar pleads guilty, Pfau expected to enter plea. Others could be involved.

July 11, 1997|BILL CHRISTINE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Richard Pfau, the first jockey to win 100 Arabian races at Los Alamitos, and Richard Sklar, a self-described professional gambler who said that he has been betting on horses since he was 16, have been charged in U.S. District Court with fixing two Arabian races at the Orange County track.

Sklar, 44, has pleaded guilty to the charge of bribery to influence a sporting contest. He is free on $5,000 bond but said Thursday that his sentencing is scheduled for September. The maximum penalties would be five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Pfau, 34, reportedly will enter a plea later this month. He is currently riding at the mixed-breed meeting at Los Alamitos, where he is tied for fifth place in the thoroughbred standings. He could not be reached for comment.

Spokesmen for the FBI and other federal agencies would not comment about the Pfau and Sklar cases, and also declined comment about whether other races are involved in the investigation. The California Horse Racing Board said that it did not believe race-fixing at Los Alamitos was widespread.

But a horseman at the track, asking that his name not be used, said that trainers and other jockeys could be involved.

Pfau and Sklar are reportedly linked to two Arabian races at Los Alamitos on Sept. 28, 1995. There was a pick-six carry-over of $81,000 that night, a large amount for Los Alamitos.

"Let me tell you something," Sklar said Thursday, "I bet a $6,000 [pick-six] ticket that night, and I didn't hit it."

In one Arabian race, Pfau rode Expresss, the even-money favorite, to a fourth-place finish. In another, Pfau's mount, Dawwyuria, who went off at 7-5, finished third and was disqualified to fourth because of interference. No tickets on the pick six had six winners, and four tickets with five winners were worth $5,271 apiece.

Sklar, who lives in Northridge, has been banned from California tracks since 1993, when he was excluded from the Del Mar off-track betting facility after allegedly obtaining $2,000 in betting vouchers by illegal means. State records show that Sklar has been ejected from other off-track sites three times since then.

In 1991, Sklar was with Bobby Unger when Unger was fatally shot in front of a Century Boulevard hotel, not far from Hollywood Park. Unger, a Newport Beach sales executive, had won $72,000 at the track hours before he was shot twice in the chest as he parked his gold Jaguar.

Track officials said Unger had drawn attention to himself by collecting his winnings in cash and was the victim of a robbery attempt.

Sklar, contemptuous of the racing establishment, said during a telephone interview: "The California Horse Racing Board should kiss the ground that gamblers like me walk on. Instead they give us a rough time. And the [Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau] is useless. They couldn't protect the fly on the tail of one horse."

The TRPB, a subsidiary of the Thoroughbred Racing Assns., provides security at most of the country's major tracks.

Sklar wouldn't discuss details of the races in question at Los Alamitos.

"I've got a chance to make a lot of money if I sell my story to one of these TV shows," Sklar said. "And not only that, I've been asked by the government not to talk about it. I don't know how anybody knows any of this. All of this was supposed to be sealed."

Pfau won his 100th Arabian race at Los Alamitos in 1994. A few years ago, he was described as "the most intense rider in the jocks' room."

Last year, he finished eighth in the overall standings at Los Alamitos, winning 64 races. He won 22 Arabian races, finishing fourth nationally for that breed.

Purses for Arabian horses are small compared to those for other breeds. Pfau's 171 Arabian mounts in 1996 produced $169,201 in purses.

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