10/14/2004 12:00AM

Reserved for two old warriors

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ARCADIA, Calif. - It was only after His Legacy and Griswold became the only residents of a 10-acre paddock at Legacy Ranch in Chino, Calif., that farm manager Shaun Hadley realized he had a problem.

The two retired California-breds made the paddock their territory, and were not too keen on visitors.

"If I put another gelding in there, they would just whip on him," Hadley said. "They wouldn't let him eat or anything."

Perhaps that should not be a surprise, considering the way His Legacy and Griswold dominated their respective niches for Legacy Ranch from the late 1980's to the mid-1990's.

His Legacy, 19, won three runnings of the California Cup Starter Handicap in 1991, '92 and '94 and was second in 1993. He rose from a $10,000 claimer to place in seven stakes in a career that spanned from 1987 to 1994. His Legacy was 9 in 1994 when he won the Starter Handicap in the final start of his 47-race career.

Griswold, 18, was arguably the best distance horse in the history of Quarter Horse racing. He was champion over 870 yards from 1991-93, and finished a game second by a neck to Valiant Pete in a $100,000 match race over a half-mile at Santa Anita in April 1991.

The memories of those days, especially the stakes wins, come back quickly for Legacy Ranch owner Pete Parrella of Corona Del Mar. Parrella still has an active stable of Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds, but none is as successful as the old boys in the paddock.

"At the time you didn't realize what you had until it was gone," he said. "It's been very hard to replace."

His Legacy ran for claiming prices ranging from $40,000 to $80,000 in the months before he won his first California Cup Starter Handicap. Trained for most of his career by David Hofmans, His Legacy won four consecutive races from August 1989 to January 1990, ranging in value from a $10,000 claimer to an allowance race.

His Legacy was never claimed, even though he had to run in at least one claiming race per year to retain eligibility to the California Cup Starter Handicap.

"We were worried about him getting claimed when we ran him for $10,000 or $16,000," Parrella said. "We had to do something. We wanted him to be competitive. He went right up the ladder."

After His Legacy was retired, an attempt was made to bring him back into training. He made it as far as a workout before an old tendon injury flared, Parrella said.

Griswold retired in the summer of 1995. He raced mostly at Los Alamitos, but is well known for the match race loss at Santa Anita on a Saturday in 1991. The race between the Thoroughbred Valiant Pete and Griswold drew an ontrack crowd of 38,926. Fans wore buttons revealing which horse they supported, and the day had a big-event feel.

Griswold was a heavy favorite at 2-5, but came up short. Valiant Pete was in front from the start. Griswold trailed Valiant Pete by a head around the turn and in early stretch and lost by a neck.

"I was very disappointed that we didn't win the race, but I felt privileged we had the opportunity to run," Parrella said. "It took some of the fences down between Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds at the time."

The retirements of His Legacy, Griswold, and Apprehend, Griswold's brother and a champion, came in a short period of time.

Apprehend and Griswold combined to earn more than $1.2 million.

"We were often wondering whether to run in races for $250,000 or $400,000," Parrella said, recalling his stable's glory days. "After they were gone, you wonder if you should go for a maiden $25,000 or maiden $32,000."

Parrella, 61, who owns a lumber company, has the walls of his office adorned with photos of His Legacy's career. "It takes half the wall," he said.

Parrella spends a few days a week at the ranch. He is optimistic that Legacy Ranch can have another run of luck similar to the early 1990's.

"We're pretty active purchasing horses," he said. "We're trying to upgrade our stock. We've made a good inroad on the Quarter Horse side."

Parrella is active in Thoroughbred breeding. One of his mares, Tricks Her, who finished second to Buffythecenterfold in the 2002 Sorrento Stakes at Del Mar, is in foal to High Yield. She is scheduled to be bred to Fusaichi Pegasus next year.

Earlier this year, the ranch won the Golden State Derby for Quarter Horses at Los Alamitos with Not for Long. In May, the 2-year-old Thoroughbred filly Bella Banissa finished second in the Nursery Stakes at Hollywood Park. She is currently sidelined following surgery to have a bone chip removed from an ankle, but will resume racing next year.

Griswold and His Legacy had a pasture-mate in Apprehend when they were retired. Apprehend died a few years ago, and since then, Griswold and His Legacy have had the paddock to themselves.

When Parrella goes to the ranch, he makes it a point to visit the old geldings.

"They're just like pals, but they don't like anybody else around," he said. "Most of the the time, they live to be outside."

Hadley said their territorial nature does not extend to people.

"Both of them are nice to be around," Hadley said. "They're not mean or anything. They just wake up and eat and rest and eat and that's it."

A few years ago, Hadley was asked by a young man for a chance to become an exercise rider. Hadley started him out on Griswold.

"The boy galloped him for a couple of months," Hadley recalled. "He learned how to ride on Griswold."

Griswold and His Legacy are not ridden these days. Hadley said Griswold is developing a swayback.

The old boys may be slowing down, but they have no intention of yielding their turf.