Don Rickles: Quick Wit, Fast Horse
Photo: Shefrin Company
Comedian Don Rickles

There was a time in the early 1960s and 1980s when the quick wit of comedian Don Rickles was matched with the speed of equines named Don Rickles.

Rickles, whose caustic comedy earned him the names “Mr. Warmth,” and the “Merchant of Venom,” died April 6 at the age of 90. Two horses named for Rickles both were stakes-caliber runners.

The most noted of the two equine Don Rickles won four of 18 starts from 1983-85, earning $182,186. He won the grade 3 Nashua Stakes in 1983 for Ted Sabarese and trainer John Parisella.

Bred in Kentucky by Jane A. Gamble, Don Rickles was a son of Icecapade—I Got My Reasons, by Forli. The colt was purchased by Sabarese for $105,000 at the 1982 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky September yearling sale.

Sabarese named the colt for Rickles, whose agent, Joe Scandore, was Parisella’s uncle.

Parisella, a native of Brooklyn, came up under the late John Campo, and had a strong run as a trainer in New York. Following a farm fire in 1972, he moved his operation to California where he trained for a number of Hollywood celebrities including Rickles, Jack Klugman, Don Adams, and James Caan.

"I was called the ‘trainer of the stars,'" Parisella said in The Blood-Horse in the early 1984. He quickly returned to New York in 1976.

Don Rickles, the horse, broke his maiden at first asking in August 1983 then ran second in Saratoga Race Course’s grade 1 Hopeful Stakes to Capitol South.

"Only thing that beat him was his post position," Parisella told The Blood-Horse.

"I saw Devil’s Bag," Parisella said. "And I said to myself: 'We can’t beat him this year. He’s a real champion.' So I pointed my colt for the Nashua because Devil's Bag wasn’t going to be in it. I wasn’t afraid of anybody but Devil's Bag."

Don Rickles made his third start in an allowance race at Aqueduct.

"He broke sideways and was eliminated at the start," the trainer said.

But the race set the colt up for the Nashua, which he won as the favorite under Angel Cordero Jr.

Don Rickles placed in Calder's Tropical Park Derby (G2) in January 1984, but was off the Triple Crown trail. He later ran in the Pennsylvania Derby and Hill Prince Stakes, but returned to sprinting, placing in the Paumonok Handicap and Sporting Plate Handicap in 1985.

In 1960, E. Seinfeld's Don Rickles (Quiet Step—Jacodema, by Jacopo), placed in the Bay Shore Handicap, Bernard Baruch Stakes, and ran third behind Tompion and Count Amber in the Travers Stakes. The first Don Rickles was bred in Kentucky by Harry Heiman. That Don Rickles went on to win 11 of 81 starts.

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