04/14/2006 12:00AM

Peter Karches, 54, dies


Peter Karches, an active Thoroughbred owner who served as co-chairman of the New York Racing Association for two years, died Thursday night in a Boston hospital after a lengthy battle with leukemia. He was 54.

Karches, along with Steven Duncker, was appointed co-chairman of NYRA on Dec. 9, 2003, just as the association was about to be indicted for fraud for past misdeeds by its mutuel clerks. Karches helped steer NYRA through a turbulent two-year period, which included an 18-month federal monitorship of NYRA's business practices. Following its work, the monitor, Getnick and Getnick, gave NYRA a positive report that led to the dismissal of a federal indictment against NYRA.

Karches resigned as NYRA's co-chairman last Dec. 7 due to his deteriorating health.

"Personally and professionally, we have lost a great friend last night with the passing of Peter Karches," Duncker said. "Even while battling his illness, Peter worked tirelessly for New York racing. His integrity and business sense were unmatched and racing in our state was the beneficiary of those talents."

It was at the behest of Karches that NYRA instituted a detention barn last May for all three of its tracks. All horses running on a day's card are required to report to the detention barn six hours prior to their race.

"He was a strong advocate and pioneer in issues of racing integrity and we will all be forever thankful for his many achievements," said NYRA president and CEO Charles Hayward.

A graduate of Georgetown University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Business, Karches became president of Morgan Stanley and, following that company's merger with Dean Witter Securities he served as president and chief operating officer of the company's institutional securities and investment banking group. He retired from that company in August 2000.

As an owner, Karches campaigned stakes winners Dynever, Fast Decision, Seducer's Song, and Statesmanship, all of whom were trained by Christophe Clement.

"It's a very sad day for racing because he was good for racing and it's a very sad day for me personally because he was a very good friend," Clement said.

Karches is survived by his wife, Susan, and their four children, Amy, Pam, Nancy, and Peter.