LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Ian Jory was sitting in his Louisville hotel room the other night, watching the late news on television.
A sportscaster did a report that practically knocked Jory out of his chair. The story was about Video Ranger and how sick he had gotten the week before he was scheduled to run in the Kentucky Derby.
Since Jory trains Video Ranger, he had more than a passing interest. After the telecast, Jory wondered if the horse characterized as having been so sick was the same colt that he had left at the barn at Churchill Downs just hours before.
Thus Jory, 32, a trainer on his own for only four years, was introduced to the media blitz that will build to outlandish proportions by the time the Kentucky Derby is run here a week from today.
At the Derby, a horse coughing might be written up as having pneumonia.
A horse that works two-fifths of a second slower than his trainer wanted might be described as washed up.
If a horse yawns, at least two dozen reporters will count his teeth.
Speaking of yawns, Video Ranger sleepwalked his way through a five-furlong workout Thursday in 1:03 3/5, and afterward Jory said the slow exercise was unrelated to the horse's condition.
"He was all right the other day," Jory said. "He was restless the night before, and his temperature was a couple of points over (normal), so we took a blood test and it came back OK. I'd rather be safe than sorry.
"He galloped a mile and a half the day he had the slight temperature. The slow work was just him. He's never been a good work horse. He did all right for the first part, and then the last eighth (of a mile), he just decided that he had had enough."
The second time he ran--on Jan. 17 at Santa Anita--Video Ranger was claimed for $40,000, which makes him one of several curiosities in the 116th Derby. The tentative field of 17 horses also includes undefeated Mister Frisky, who was sold at auction for only $15,000 as a 2-year-old; Silver Ending, a $1,500 yearling; Pendleton Ridge, who is winless in three races; and Power Lunch, who, like Video Ranger, is still eligible for races written for nonwinners of two races.
Video Ranger's chances are considered remote, even though he ran second in the Santa Anita Derby, 4 1/2 lengths behind Mister Frisky. Jim Bolus, the Kentucky Derby historian, says there is no record of a horse winning the roses after being claimed.
"Dust Commander (the 1970 winner) ran in a claiming price before the Derby, but he was never claimed," Bolus said. "Clyde Van Dusen (the gelding who won in 1929) ran in claiming races after he won the Derby, and so did Stone Street (the 1908 winner)."
Video Ranger could be excused if he didn't know who was in charge, because the Cox's Ridge-Vestris colt has had three trainers for his six races. He scored his only victory by 13 lengths in the mud, the day he was claimed from trainer Wayne Lukas. In his only race before that, Lukas ran him for a $62,500 claiming price as a 2-year-old at Del Mar.
Trainer John Chlomos claimed Video Ranger for Myung Kwon Cho, a South Korean importer-exporter who lives in Rolling Hills. Cho had an unexplained falling out with Chlomos and sent Video Ranger and 11 other horses to Jory, an Englishman who once worked for John Gosden in California.
When Jory received Video Ranger, shortly before the San Felipe Handicap at Santa Anita on March 18, the horse had one victory in four starts, but had run a good third behind Pleasant Tap--another Kentucky Derby starter--and T.V. Rebel, and was a close second to Tsu's Dawning in the Bradbury Stakes.
Video Ranger was a soundly beaten seventh in the San Felipe, and as a result he went off at 36-1 in the Santa Anita Derby. Though no threat to Mister Frisky, the horse showed the kind of late move that might help him next Saturday, when the distance is 1 1/4 miles instead of 1 1/8.
Lukas, who trained Video Ranger for owner-breeder Joe Allen, is skeptical. No trainer wants to lose a horse on a claim and see him win a stake, especially the Kentucky Derby. To win the Derby, Video Ranger must beat three Lukas entrants--Land Rush, Real Cash and Power Lunch.
"Jory claimed another horse off me, and he turned out to be a disaster," Lukas said. "Nobody's ever claimed anything off me that amounted to anything."
There is, however, at least one exception: Hollywood Reporter was claimed from Lukas and became a stakes winner.
"I think this is a $300,000 horse," Cho said of Video Ranger. "I was surprised they put him in a claiming race."
Should Video Ranger become the first claimed horse to win the Kentucky Derby, they will have to put another digit in front of that $300,000 figure to express his value.
Horse Racing Notes
Eddie Delahoussaye, the only jockey to ride Video Ranger twice, including his race in the Santa Anita Derby, has the mount in the Derby. Delahoussaye won the Derby with Gato Del Sol in 1982 and Sunny's Halo in 1983. . . . Wayne Lukas is not excited about running Power Lunch in the Derby, but Calumet Farm, winner of a record eight Derbies, wants him to run. Randy Romero will ride Power Lunch, who was third in the Arkansas Derby.