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Mar 16, 2012

Up the Backstretch: True survivor story

By: By Don Agriss, Horse Racing Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - An interesting story out of Fair Grounds Race Course over the weekend puts into perspective horse racing and its relation to world history.

Saturday at the New Orleans track, a horse named Miz Ida won the Allen LaCombe Memorial. The 3-year-old filly is owned by Richard, Bertram and Elaine Klein, and named in honor of family friend Ida Schultz.

It's not unusual for owners to name their horses after friends, business partners or other people in their lives. However, few have a life story as compelling or horrific as Ms. Schultz.

Ida Schultz, 84 years young, is a survivor of the Nazi death camps during World War 2.

"She's a friend of Bert and Elaine's who is just a wonderful lady and lives in South Florida now," said trainer Steve Margolis. "She is a lovely lady -- a real ray of sunshine to all the people down there who know her from the old Gulfstream Park. She used to go there every day."

Ida, like so many Holocaust survivors, was able to overcome the horrors of the concentration camps and make new lives for themselves. Some eventually made their way to Israel, both before and after its re-establishment in 1948. Many came to America.

Speaking to Fair Grounds' staff from Florida, Schultz talked about the Kleins and her love of animals.

"I love people and I love animals," Schultz said, "but the Kleins are the most important people on earth to me. They are more than family to me. I know them all and I'd give my life for any one of them. I'd do anything for them. They are all I have now. I remember when they called me and told me they were going to name this horse after me, and I remember seeing this horse when she first came off the farm. I told them at that time, 'You're going to have a lot of luck with this horse.' I knew it the moment I saw her.

"I also knew (trainer) Steve when he was a just a kid -- just a (hot) walker. I talked to him before the race yesterday, and I told him, 'You will win this race.' He said, 'I'm not so sure, I'm afraid of these other horses in there,' but I said, 'Steve, mark my words, you're going to be the winner.' What else can I tell you?"

Being a winner came late for Schultz.

Born in 1927 in Poland, she along with her parents and younger brother were taken away in 1942. She would be the lone survivor from her immediate family.

"I don't know why, but I was the only one who survived," she said. "Whenever any of the guards would come around and ask who wanted to work in the field that day, I never raised my hand. I didn't trust them. I knew through word of mouth when each member of my family was killed. We were separated, but word always got around the camp.

"Over the next three years, I was moved around to 17 different concentration camps until General Eisenhower's Ninth Army liberated us on April 12, 1945. Of course, I will never forget that day. Then, I found work in a factory working the night shift and eventually in a Volkswagen plant near the Czechoslovakian border. We traveled over the mountains on foot to get there. Nobody wanted to accept us at that time."

Schultz joined a select group of people in being a Holocaust survivor. A group no one would really choose to become part of when they are children. Survivors, as they are simply known within the Jewish community, have been able to be just like Ida. They are able to remember the basic good within people and move forward with their lives.

"I'm going to love all people -- I don't care what their color is or what their nationality is -- and I'm going to love all animals," Schultz said. "They have so much to teach us, if we just look at them and listen to what they can show us.

"Also, I've learned in life that when you knock on any door, you never know what good thing might be waiting for you on the other side."

Schultz continues to follow horse racing after finding it therapeutic.

"I love all the horses and love to watch them run," she said. "They are like psychiatrists for me. They can teach us so many things if you watch them and study them. When I lived in New York, I used to go out to Belmont and Aqueduct to see them run, and when I moved to South Florida I used to go out to the old Gulfstream and loved to sit in that beautiful paddock and study them. Not so much anymore. There's something missing now.

"But in the old paddock, the way it was, all the jockeys and trainers got to know me. The jockeys all called me 'Momma.' Guys like Jose Santos and Cornelio Velasquez, and Shaun Bridgmohan when he first started riding. He rode down here in South Florida in those days."

Ida Schultz, a remarkable woman who gives more than she could ever receive.

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