05/26/2004 11:00PM

Fan leaves horse fund $900K

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A New Jersey horse racing fan left approximately $900,000 to the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation in her will last year, the foundation announced Thursday.

The gift, by Barbara Dege, who died last year at age 50 of chronic heart problems, was the second-highest ever received by the Foundation. Paul Mellon, the Virginia philanthropist, left the organization an endowment of $5 million when he died in 1999.

Foundation officials said that Dege frequently visited racetracks in New York and New Jersey, placing $2 wagers. She also contributed articles to American Turf Monthly, a horse racing magazine.

The TRF received a $500,000 check from Dege's estate last week. The officials said that the total amount is expected to be $900,000 after the final details of the estate are settled.

TRF's founder, Monique Koehler, said that Dege frequently made small donations to the TRF while she was alive. Dege was an only child who inherited her money and had no surviving family, TRF officials said.