02/20/2010 1:00AM

Hazelton to saddle final starter today


Richard Hazelton, among the leading trainers by career wins in the United States, sen out his final starter Saturday at Hawthorne Race Course.

Hazelton's stable has declined significantly in numbers during the last year. At the start of the Hawthorne meet, on Feb. 12, Hazelton had only five horses under his care. He said he has sent three horses owned by Richard Radke to trainer Rusty Hellman, who already had picked up horses for Radke, and will send the final two, owned by Craig Besinger, to trainer Wayne Catalano.

Hazelton is 80, but said he would have kept training had he been able to maintain an adequate number of horses.

"I lost some horses, and I didn't think I could keep making it," Hazelton said, reached Friday afternoon at his home near Hawthorne.

Hazelton has amassed 4,475 wins -- the seventh-most ever -- during a career spanning eight decades. An Arizonan, Hazelton began working for his father, a horseman, during childhood. Hazelton rode Quarter Horses through the mid-1940s, and began training in 1947, he said.

During his peak years, Hazelton was a dominant force, winning races in scores throughout the Midwest, but particularly in Chicago. He was an innovator, and shipped his stable cross country by plane and train when moving from winter quarters back north. While Hazelton did not campaign numerous graded stakes winners, he was renowned for his work with 2-year-olds, and earned great respect from both contemporaries and a younger generation of trainers.