12/12/2001 1:00AM

Kutz stays upbeat as comeback from cancer continues

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It has been just over four months since Dean Kutz returned from a life-threatening illness to his lifelong profession as a jockey. He has won 16 races, an average of only four a month, but Kutz could not be happier.

"I'm feeling good, and I've had no problems to speak of," said Kutz. "It's been as good as I could've hoped for."

Kutz, 45, returned at Ellis Park on Aug. 8, less than 18 months after being sidelined because of throat cancer. He lost his voice box to the cancer and speaks through a hand-held mechanical device. To communicate with the trainers for whom he rides, Kutz hands the trainer the device when leaving the paddock, then gets it back after unsaddling.

Kutz, a veteran of nearly 30 years, said his friends and colleagues are having the occasional bit of fun with the new system. "I got back from one race, and the trainer had turned the battery upside down so it wouldn't work," he said with a laugh. "That's all I needed to know about what he thought of my ride."

Even after having won just twice from his first 34 mounts at the current holiday meet at Turfway Park in Florence, Ky., Kutz is anything but discouraged.

"I think business could pick up after the first of the year," he said, noting that some top riders leave for other tracks then. "I'll be ready."

Kutz, a former Turfway champion, simply is happy to be part of racing again.

"I've had a couple of jams but got out of them," he said. "It's like old times again. I feel like I'm performing as well as I ever have, and I'm having fun doing it."

Fast Delivery retired after injury

Fast Delivery, the 4-year-old filly who on Saturday won the My Charmer Stakes for the second straight year, exited the race with a knee fracture and has been retired.

The injury was diagnosed Monday, and surgery to insert a screw into the knee was to be performed Thursday.

Fast Delivery, owned by David and Andrea Jacobs and trained by former jockey Betty Moran, earned over $263,000 in her 23-race career. A Little Missouri filly, she will be bred next year.

"She's the saddest, because she loved to train and race," said Moran.

Glacial set to go in Prairie Bayou

At least seven entrants are likely for the Saturday feature, the $50,000 Prairie Bayou Stakes.

Glacial, the 6-year-old gelding whose most notable races have come at Turfway, is among those definite for the 1 1/8-mile race.

Among the other possibly likely favorites are Crafty Shaw, winner of the Rebel Stakes earlier this year, and either of the Niall O'Callaghan duo of Frazee's Folly and Horrible Evening.

Other probables include Hallshill Road, Regal Dom and Tiltam. Several more are possible.

Handicapping contest offers $15,000

The semiannual Turfway Park Handicapping Blowout will be held Sunday. Two berths in the Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Finals in Las Vegas in January are at stake, along with $15,000 in prize money.

The contest is limited to the first 350 registrants. The entry fee is $100.

$1 billion through the windows

Trackside, the Louisville simulcast facility formerly known as Sports Spectrum, passed the $1 billion wagering mark on Nov. 30, Churchill Downs officials announced this week.

The wagering milestone came nine years and one day after the facility opened for business on Nov. 29, 1992. Trackside easily produces the most handle among Kentucky offtrack sites each year.