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BACKER OF A BEARBACK RIDE
Pat Putnam
June 28, 1971
Except for lions, which get too gentle, any reasonable animal can be trained, or so says Jonny Rivers, who provides Gulfstream Park with its wildest contests
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June 28, 1971

Backer Of A Bearback Ride

Except for lions, which get too gentle, any reasonable animal can be trained, or so says Jonny Rivers, who provides Gulfstream Park with its wildest contests

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Delma Rivers, carrying a tiny bear cub in one hand and a baby bottle in the other, slogged slowly through the freshly raked dirt of Gulfstream's racing strip. Half a furlong ahead Jonny, her husband, was wheeling a long low red trailer into position in front of the winner's circle. The tiny windows of the trailer were barred. From inside came growls, deep, throaty and vicious. "I don't even want to look," said Jockey Eddie Maletto. He was clothed in the classic attire of an elf: a long green stocking cap and pointed green slippers, both belled, a green jacket with spiked red collar, a blue leotard and a slightly sheepish look. Maletto turned to a friend, Norman Reagan, a jockey in civilian clothes. "You go look," he said. Reagan laughed, moved to the trailer and peered in through the bars.

"What do they look like?" Maletto asked.

"They look like bears, you dimwit. What did you think they looked like?"

"Yeah," Maletto said, unhappily.

Jonny Rivers climbed down from the cab of the truck. "O.K., let's get those bears out here," he said. "They want to meet the jockeys."

"He means they want to cat the jockeys," said Reagan, laughing. Maletto gave him a pained look.

"You want all three bears?" Bob Leonard, a handler, asked Rivers.

"Naw," said Rivers, waving a large, grainy hand. "Just bring out Barney and Becky. Leave Beulah in there. She's sort of a surprise."

"A surprise for whom?" he was asked.

Rivers looked around and noted there were no jockeys within hearing distance. Still, he whispered, "A surprise for the jockeys. I don't want to scare them off. That Beulah, she's still got her front claws. She's crazy. And quick. When we turn her loose she's liable to take off for the lake. She ought to be good for a few laughs on Saturday."

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