LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The owner and trainer of the fourth-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby would have had a better time at Churchill Downs Saturday if Kato Kaelin hadn't shown up and if the track hadn't been using "quick official" after the race.
Before Jumron's unsuccessful bid to win the 121st Derby, his owner, Charles Dunn, and trainer Gary Lewis had trouble getting from the paddock to their box seats in the crowd of 144,110 while Kaelin, O.J. Simpson's former house guest, was whisked back to his seat by security guards.
"I guess they didn't want him to miss anything," Dunn said Sunday morning at Jumron's barn. Jumron had the roughest trip in a roughly run, 19-horse Derby. He was almost bitten by Afternoon Deelites, he was hit in the head by the whip of Tejano Run's jockey, Jerry Bailey, and he came out of the race with nicks on both front legs and a deep cut on his left foreleg. The injuries, while not considered serious, are enough to keep Jumron out of the Preakness, the second leg of the Triple Crown, at Pimlico on May 20.
Jumron, who went off at 5-1, the third betting choice, finished about three lengths behind the winner, Thunder Gulch, who won the Derby at 24-1, giving the race its biggest win payoff since Proud Clarion in 1967.
After the race, Lewis said he and Dunn were prevented from considering foul claims against Tejano Run and Timber Country, the other horses that finished ahead of them, because of Churchill Downs' newly installed "quick official." Jockey Goncalino Almeida apparently did not consider a foul claim, and Lewis said there was no time for him and Dunn to review the race with their rider and lodge an objection. Besides jockeys, owners and trainers are also allowed to make a foul claim with the track's three stewards.
"Quick official," which is in effect in many states, including California, allows stewards to make a race official soon after the horses have crossed the finish line. Jockeys making foul claims must notify an outrider before they dismount. The system was introduced in Kentucky a week before the Derby, when Churchill Downs opened its season. Tracks prefer "quick official" because it speeds up the day and enables mutuel clerks to make quicker payoffs to bettors, giving them more time to bet the next race.
"We couldn't see the first replay because of the glare of the sun on our nearest monitor," Lewis said. "After that, it must have taken 45 minutes to get to track level to talk to the jockey. The 'quick official' is impossible for a race like the Derby. We didn't have enough information to base a claim of foul, but if we had had more time, we might have. I think we could have won without all the trouble. I look at the colt's leg and remind myself that with all that, we got beat by just over three lengths."
Thunder Gulch was clear of the heavy traffic that Jumron encountered, and a foul claim would not have affected his victory. Second place was worth $145,000, third paid $70,000 and Jumron earned $35,000 for fourth.
Telephones are available in the stands for owners and trainers to claim foul after races, and Bernie Hettel, chief steward at Churchill Downs, said horsemen can also make objections with cellular phones.
"The first objection we had after putting in 'quick official' came from a trainer," Hettel said. "To change from 'quick official' back to the old system just for the Derby might be difficult. It would be difficult to write an administrative regulation for just one race."
In Maryland, where the Preakness is run, "quick official" does not apply to stakes races.
"We had a longer time than usual in posting the 'official' sign after the Derby because of the close finish for the spots after the winner," Hettel said. "The placings were delayed while the placing judges looked at the photos. You can't expect to hear from everybody in the race before you declare a race official. If you did, we'd still be waiting there the next day."
Horse Racing Notes