Michael (Buster) Millerick, a trainer for half a century and the man who developed Native Diver into a horse that won 34 stakes races, died Tuesday night at Methodist Hospital in Arcadia after a short illness.
Millerick, who would have been 81 next month, was still active as a trainer, although his stable consisted of only four horses.
"He was still out there every morning, riding his stable pony with his horses to the track," said Brian Sweeney, a trainer at Santa Anita. "I saw him just the other day. He needed help, getting on and off the pony, but he was still there every day."
Millerick, who saddled 54 stakes winners, was a candidate for racing's Hall of Fame at Saratoga Springs, N.Y., this year and missed being elected by eight votes.
Native Diver, who raced from 1961 through 1967, won the Hollywood Gold Cup three straight times, starting in 1965, and became the first California-bred to earn $1 million.
Millerick was training horses when Santa Anita opened in 1934 and missed saddling at least one winner a season only four times. Millerick, who saddled four winners in one day at Santa Anita in 1965, won 860 races there and at Hollywood Park. He ranks fifth at Hollywood Park in lifetime stakes winners with 35.
Some of his other stakes winners were Kissin' George, George Lewis, Fleet Nasrullah and Countess Fleet.
Millerick was born in Petaluma, Calif., and began his career in horse racing as a jockey at Agua Caliente in the 1920s.
Millerick, who lived in El Sereno, is survived by his wife, Martha, and a brother, Edward. After a funeral Mass at 8 tonight at Holy Angels Church in Arcadia, he will be buried Friday in Petaluma.