03/09/2008 11:00PM

NYRA 'colors man' Louis Olah dies at 79

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OZONE PARK, N.Y. - Louis Olah, literally and figuratively the most colorful man in the New York jockey colony, died Saturday night from complications caused by a staph infection. He was 79.

Olah was the "colors man" for the New York Racing Association, in charge of organizing and distributing the owners' silks to the riders for each race at Aqueduct, Belmont, and Saratoga. He had worked in the jocks' room since 1967. Before that, Olah was a jockey, recently telling the New York Times that he won approximately 190 races, including the 1947 Interborough Handicap aboard Tavstock.

Olah, who was profiled in the Jan. 13 issue of the Times, endeared himself to all those around him with his upbeat personality.

"You couldn't ask for a nicer fella," said Harry Rice, who worked as Olah's assistant for several years beginning in 1975 and who is currently a valet. "He looked after you, he looked after all the young guys. You're going to miss him going down the hallways singing 'La, la la.' He was just a happy-go-lucky guy. He loved being in the jocks' room, being around the jocks."

Mike Luzzi, who has been riding in New York since 1994, said Olah is "certainly going to be missed." Luzzi said that often Olah would give advice without being intrusive.

"He'd come up with a story about the old days and make you appreciate what jocks have now compared to when he was a rider," Luzzi said. "He was trying to give advice, at the same time just trying to mind his own business as well. He was a pretty smart guy."

Walter Arce, Olah's assistant for the last decade, will likely assume Olah's position as the colors man.

Olah is survived by Clare, his wife of 58 years, and a daughter, Donna. A viewing will be held at Romanelli Funeral Home, 89-01 Rockaway Blvd. in Ozone Park, N.Y., on Wednesday from 2-5 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. A memorial service is scheduled for 8 p.m. Wednesday at the funeral home.