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  /  Backstretch Buzz   /  The Bill Pricket Story

The Bill Pricket Story

In Memorium

Bill Prickett

(Jan. 9, 1938 – Jan.8, 2020)

William Prickett ( Courtesy Patience Gowan)

by Dick Jerardi
In a golden era for sprinters at Keystone in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Al Battah was one of the best. He won the Allegheny Stakes as a 2-year-old in 1977, the Bensalem and Garrison Handicaps in 1979 and 1980 and the Gallant Bob Handicap in 1979. All told, the horse won 21 races from 57 starters and $370,539.Al Battah’s trainer Bill Prickett was also one of the very best. A native of Vincentown, N.J., whose father was a dairy farmer, Prickett trained horses in the Delaware Valley from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s.

He very likely won more than 1,000 races. Equibase statistics, which only go back to 1974, have him with 719 wins from 5,429 starters. He won 131 races in 1976. The Prickett-trained Return of a Native won the 1976 Ohio Derby. Keep Shining was the king of the starter handicaps at Delaware Park.

Prickett was one day shy of his 82nd birthday when he died of cardiac arrest at Delaware’s Christiana Hospital on Jan. 8.

Patience Gowan went to work for Prickett in 1975. She went out on her own for a few years before they reconnected in the early 1980s. They were together for nearly 40 years and had a son in 1985.

“I signed for him to get his first trainer’s license,’’ said Eddie Gager, the famed equine dentist who basically grew up with Prickett. “We traveled all over the country together, bought a lot of horses together. He was a good guy…His father was a dairy farmer. In fact, his father set a world-record with a Guernsey Cow with milk production. Billy grew up on a farm.’’

According to Gager, Prickett’s training career ended at a relatively young age because he had some medical issues. Prickett, however, was not unwilling to take on other challenges.

“When he was 60-years-old, he said to me: `I’m going to Alaska and do some prospecting,’’’ Gager remembered.

So he did.

“He gave $15,000 for a piece of equipment and it cost him $10,000 to get it there,’’ Gager said. “The best day he had up there was about $1,800 in gold. He said if the thing broke down, you were like two weeks getting the parts for it. When he left, he left the machine up there. For $10,000, he wasn’t going to bring it home. That was kind of a bust.’’

But Bill Prickett’s training career was anything but a bust. Anybody who went to Garden State Park, Atlantic City, Monmouth Park, Liberty Bell, Keystone,

and Delaware Park, among other tracks, during his years as a trainer, always knew he would not be hard to find. Just look to the winner’s circle.