04/27/2017 3:50PM

Longtime steward Hicks dies at 88

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David Hicks, a former trainer turned steward, died Monday at Kindred Hospital in Hollywood, Fla., following a long illness. He was 88.

Hicks began on the racetrack as a groom and worked as a foreman for trainer George Handy in New England. Hicks took out his trainer’s license in 1951 at Scarborough Downs in Maine. He built a successful public stable and trained for owner Peter Fuller.

In 1969, Hicks began his long, distinguished career as a racing steward, first in New Hampshire, then at Suffolk Downs in Boston. While at Suffolk, Hicks established a program for apprentice riders that was designed, in part, to promote safety during the running of races. That program is still used by many tracks, including the New York Racing Association’s three venues.

In the 1980s, Hicks worked as a steward at the southern Florida tracks: Calder, Gulfstream, and Hialeah. He worked as a steward at NYRA’s tracks from 1995 until his retirement in 2005.

“David turned out to be a top steward was very well respected as a steward and as a racetrack person,” said Handy, who at age 93 is still training horses in south Florida. “I don’t know anyone that didn’t like David Hicks. He was a fine gentleman. We had a lot of laughs together, did a lot of work together.”

Richard Migliore rode at NYRA’s track when Hicks was a steward. Since his retirement from riding, Migliore has taken over the apprentice program at NYRA.

“I always had the utmost respect for Dave,” Migliore said. “We didn’t always see eye to eye, but I always liked him.”

Migliore said the apprentice program is beneficial for riders because it addresses aspects of the job that often aren’t thoroughly discussed.

“You go over the riding part of it, but there are other things that nobody ever talks about: making weight, how to take care of your body, taking care of your money, how to talk to the media and handle yourself publicly,” Migliore said. “It’s a great learning tool.”

Hicks is survived by his wife of 61 years, Lenice J. (Peever) Hicks, five children, 12 grandchildren, and 11 great-grandchildren.

Visitation will be held Saturday from 3 to 5 p.m. Eastern at Fred Hunter’s Memorial Funeral Home, 6301 Taft St., Hollywood, Fla. A funeral for family members will follow. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund, P.O. Box 803, Elmhurst, Ill. 60126.