02/08/2008 12:00AM

Darley playing host at Ocala festivities


A new dimension has been added to this week's annual Ocala 2-year-old sales and racing festival. The blue motif representing the international Thoroughbred activities of Sheikh Mohammed's Darley enterprises will be prominently on display. Darley is co-sponsoring the five races that comprise the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.'s festival of racing on Monday. Darley is also hosting a postrace banquet for invited guests - breeders, owners, consignors, and buyers who are in town for the races and sales.

Dan Price, the chief operating officer for Darley USA, explains it this way: "It's part of our international marketing program to promote our brand and our stallions. Darley sponsors races at Keeneland and Saratoga, and it was felt that Florida is a market that we should be developing."

The Florida Thoroughbred Breeders' and Owners' Association will hold its annual awards banquet Sunday evening. The OBS races, with a record purse allotment of $425,000, have a first post of 1:30 p.m. Monday. The first of Florida's three selected 2-year-old sales will be held Tuesday with about 150 set to go through the ring.

New surface seems normal

The 2007 installation of a synthetic Safetrack surface was a multimillion-dollar investment for OBS. After seeing how slow the Del Mar Polytrack played at first, and how fast the Santa Anita Cushion Track has been playing, the question was: How would the OBS all-weather track play when it was used for workouts? The answer came last Sunday, during the first under-tack show for the OBS

2-year-old sale.

The first 10 horses undoubtedly worked a few ticks faster than their counterparts would likely have worked a year ago over the conventional OBS dirt track, most of them going in 10 seconds flat or 10 and change. It was presumed that somewhere during the workouts a nine and change would happen. No such speed materialized. Fourteen horses hit the 10-flat mark, and only one worked a quarter faster than 21 and change, and that time was 20.80.

Tom Ventura, the OBS general manager, was pleased with the day's events.

"The under-tack times were generally what we expected, and the sales horses handled the footing," he said. "There were no morning-after problems either."

Karutz, doctor turned breeder, dies

Dr. Wallace S. Karutz - known by most in the trade and among his peers as Wally - died at 85 this past week in Ocala from complications following a stroke. Karutz was a Brooklyn-born racetracker, who, he said, got his first taste of the game at old Jamaica and Aqueduct racetracks. That taste developed into an appetite, and when he made his mark as an ear, nose, and throat physician, he bought a farm in New York and subsequently moved that operation to Kentucky, where it did business under the name of Bourbon Hills Farm. That Kentucky operation expanded to include the Bourbon Hills Annex in Ocala.

He bred his share of good racehorses over the years, usually employing his own breeding stock. The 1986 2-year-old Eclipse champion filly, Brave Raj, was a 100 percent homebred, being by his resident stallion Rajab and out of Bravest Yet, by Bravo.

"He truly loved his horses," said Debbie Schnell, Karutz's longtime companion. "We have pensioned mares that he bred who are in their 30s."

Karutz is survived by two sons, a daughter, seven grandchildren, and a great-granddaughter.