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Dean Kutz, 48; Jockey Overcame Infirmities to Win Woolf Award

September 27, 2004|Bill Christine | Times Staff Writer

Dean Kutz, a jockey who won 2,835 races despite deformed hands and a missing kidney, died Sunday at St. Joseph's Hospital in Lexington, Ky. He was 48.

No cause was given for Kutz's death. He last rode in 2002, when 35 wins helped boost his career purse total to $33 million. He trained horses in North Dakota the past two years.

Born in Harvey, N.D., Kutz was 2 when he suffered severe frostbite to his hands as he, two older sisters and a baby sitter walked a mile to the nearest neighbor in subzero weather after a fire broke out at the family home.

Kutz was born with only one kidney and received a transplant from a sister in 1984. In 2000, he was left speechless after a cancerous larynx was removed, but he was later able to talk with the help of a battery-powered voice box.

He appeared at Santa Anita in 2001 to receive the George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award, named after the famous jockey who died from injuries suffered at the track.

"All my bad luck started when I was just 2, and it's still going against me," Kutz told The Times in an interview then. "But I've still managed to have a very successful career. I'm strong and can work my way through things. I can deal with them."

Kathy Walsh, a Santa Anita trainer, used Kutz regularly as a jockey when they were winning races together in Minnesota many years ago.

"Dean is a most special guy," Walsh said in 2001.

"He was neat on a horse and had a beautiful work ethic. You couldn't find anybody around the track who disliked him."

Kutz rode for almost 30 years. He was the first jockey to be enshrined in the Canterbury Park Racing Hall of Fame near Minneapolis; he recently became the first racing figure to be added to the North Dakota Sports Hall of Fame, and in 2002 he won the New York Racing Assn.'s Mike Venezia Memorial Award.

According to Blackburn & Ward Funeral Home in Versailles, Ky., Kutz is survived by seven sisters and four brothers and his companion, Nancy Baker.

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