- Horse Racing - Trainer "Lefty" Nickerson dies after long illness

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Saturday, March 27
Trainer "Lefty" Nickerson dies after long illness

NEW YORK -- V. J. "Lefty" Nickerson, who trained the great John Henry for a time, has died after a long illness. He was 75.

Nickerson, who trained top horses over five decades and supervised John Henry's races in New York from 1979-81, died Friday at his home in Smithtown, his daughter, Barbara, said Saturday.

He retired as a trainer nine years ago after a stroke, and made a brief comeback attempt two years ago after extensive rehabilitation.

Born in Boston, Nickerson took out his trainer's license in 1953 and won his first stakes race 11 years later, with Staunchness in the Whitney at Saratoga.

Nickerson, who trained 37 stakes winners, worked for some of racing's top owners, including Harbor View Farm. In the early 1970s, Nickerson mentored Richard Mandella, the Hall of Fame trainer who won Saturday's $6 million Dubai World Cup with Pleasantly Perfect.

Nickerson first trained John Henry for owner Sam Rubin in 1979, and the horse won three of eight starts that year. John Henry was then sent to Ron McAnally in California, but Nickerson was the trainer of record when the horse ran in New York.

Under Nickerson's care, the two-time Horse of the Year won the 1981 Jockey Club Gold Cup and the Sword Dancer Stakes.

Nickerson also trained Spruce to upsets over Forego -- in the 1974 Marlboro Cup and the Governor Stakes.

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