Racehorse owner Richard Bomze, 76, dies; was Lawrence High grad

Richard Bomze was a player who loved betting on himself and his horses. He met life head-on, and no risk was out of the question, even flying a thoroughbred from New York to Ireland to attempt something that had never been done.

When trainer Leo O'Brien, a transplanted Irishman, asked Bomze, co-owner of the promising New York-bred colt Fourstarsallstar, to consider entering the 1991 Irish 2,000 Guineas, Bomze said, "What the hell is the 2,000 Guineas?" Told it was a prestigious stakes for 3-year-olds, he figured, why not?

"He was willing to go anywhere," O'Brien said Thursday. "He would have sent him to the moon if I'd asked him to."

A few months later, Bomze stood at the Curragh racetrack in County Kildare and advised reporters, "If you want to make money, go bet my horse with the bookies." Minutes later, Fourstarsallstar became the first U.S.-trained horse to win an Irish classic.

"He was a great guy," O'Brien said of Bomze, a former Long Island resident who died Tuesday night at home in Hollywood, Fla., after a long battle with emphysema. He was 76.

"I'm devastated," said Joel Shapiro, Bomze's pal since they were 4-year-olds in Woodmere. "He was my best friend. It's a tremendous loss."

Bomze, a graduate of Lawrence High and Duke, was owner and president of Star Sports Corp., which published American Turf Monthly. He owned Sports Reporter, a touting service. He was president of the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association.

"Richie was quite a guy," Shapiro said. "He was political, patriotic, religious in a general way, and he loved his Duke Blue Devils."

Bomze bred and co-owned Fourstarsallstar and his older full brother, Fourstardave, a gelding known as the "Sultan of Saratoga" for winning at least once there for eight consecutive years (1987-94). Bomze bought their mother, Broadway Joan, for $2,500, the bargain of a lifetime. Fourstarsallstar earned more than $1.5 million. Fourstardave, also trained by O'Brien, won 21 times, including 13 stakes, and banked $1.63 million.

"Richie absolutely loved the game," said O'Brien, and never more than when Bomze and his partner, Michael Spielman, ran Morning Bob in the 1984 Belmont Stakes. A few weeks earlier, they bought the colt for more than $1 million. Before the race, Bomze stood in the paddock and reflected.

"When you were a kid and stood outside the paddock and looked at all the fancy women and rich people, you knew you weren't born right," Bomze told Newsday's Stan Isaacs. "You couldn't imagine yourself standing there inside with the horses. I imagine that the Vanderbilts and the Whitneys would be spinning in their graves if they saw me here, but I don't care. I am loving it."

Morning Bob won a photo finish for third. It was a peak experience for Bomze, with many more to come. Fourstardave became a hero at Saratoga Race Course, where a nearby lane is named Fourstardaveway.

"People could be in the business all their lives and spend millions and never get a horse like this," he said in 1994.

Bomze was one of a kind, too. "Richie was a real Damon Runyon character," Shapiro said. "He's going to be missed by so many people."

Survivors include his wife, Diane, daughters Dana and Jennifer, a sister, Sandra, a brother, Edward, and four grandchildren. There is a service Sunday at 10 a.m. at Parkside Memorial Chapel in Forest Hills.

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