04/01/2005 1:00AM

George Stidham, 78, dies

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George Stidham, a former jockey and trainer, died early Friday morning in Glendora, Calif.

Stidham, 78, was born in 1927 in Pennsylvania, and rode steadily up and down the East Coast through the 1950's and 1960's. As a journeyman at Charles Town Race Course, he made the acquaintance of a fresh-faced apprentice rider named Bill Hartack. The two became close friends, and Stidham later served as Hartack's business manager and part-time agent.

Stidham became deeply involved with the Jockey's Association, which was formed as an alternative to the Jockey's Guild, and eventually was named the Eastern representative for the organization, traveling from racetrack to racetrack, recruiting members and advocating for other riders.

In the 1970's, Stidham turned to training, basing his stable in south Florida. The operation produced racehorses and one future trainer, Stidham's son Mike.

Stidham also is survived by his wife, Anita, and two other children, Steve, a former racetrack photographer, and Cyndi.