06/18/2004 11:00PM

Nicks gets boot after NYRA denies him stalls

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Ralph Nicks, who for the last six months has been employed as the private trainer for ownership syndicate Team Valor, was fired Friday after being denied stalls for the upcoming Saratoga meet.

Nicks, who currently is serving a 15-day suspension for a medication violation in New York, said he was informed by syndicate president Barry Irwin that the New York Racing Association's denial of stalls led to Irwin's decision to disperse the Team Valor horses among about seven different trainers, including Todd Pletcher, Kiaran McLaughlin, Rick Violette, and John Kimmel in New York.

Nicks was suspended and fined $5,000 after veterinarian David Bryant was observed giving the Nicks-trained Woodford Lad a calcium injection the morning Woodford Lad was scheduled to race June 9 at Belmont. It is illegal to give a horse a shot other than Lasix on race day in New York. Nicks originally was suspended 30 days, but the penalty was cut in half after he did not appeal.

Nicks said he will return to Kentucky to begin building a public stable when his suspension expires June 28.

The Team Valor experiment to employ a private trainer had been only a moderate success. Nicks, who wintered at Oaklawn Park before moving his stable to Saratoga, won nine races from 43 starters for earnings of $291,997.