Trainer Ian Jory's Preakness cruise goes up in smoke

May 15, 1991|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Evening Sun Staff

It was meant to be idyllic, the perfect way to relieve all the stress and aggravation that goes along with training a Triple Crown horse.

So when Ian Jory, who is in town for the Preakness with Derby runner-up Best Pal, said he liked to fish, what would you do?

Simple. Take the afternoon off.

You call up a couple of your best pals, who just happen to have a boat and waterfront property on the Eastern Shore. Invite yourself and Ian to go fishing. And head for the Chesapeake Bay.

Actually, Ian needed no introduction to Eddie and Binnie Houghton, who live near Chestertown.

Two of his best friends are Kim and Murray Johnson, the Houghtons' daughter and son-in-law, who ran fourth-place finisher Green Alligator in the Derby.

And Ian could even jog his memory enough to remember a horse the Houghtons once sent to John Gosden, his old employer, in California.

"Wasn't that horse named Dauntless?" Ian said.

Thrilled that someone actually remembered Dauntless, the afternoon with the Houghtons was definitely off to a smashing start.

It also helped that Binnie is a gourmet cook and that Eddie had his boat, "The Widgeon," all rigged up and ready for the journey at sea.

"Actually, we haven't had The Widgeon in the water yet this year," Eddie said, as we drove to the slip in Rock Hall, where we would launch the boat. "This will be a good dry run, because I'm in a fishing contest next weekend."

Armed with ice chests full of goodies, Eddie's expertise an newfound knowledge that English-born Ian was once a "sea scout," it was time to take on the rockfish.

"If we want to keep the fish we catch, we've got to go south o the Bay Bridge, and we can only keep them if they are longer than 36 inches," Eddie said. He even had the necessary tags to identify the anticipated haul.

We sped toward the bridge.

The first sign of trouble occurred as we approached the might span.

"Isn't that smoke I smell?," said Ian, the astute sea scout.

"Naw, it's just the fumes from the cars on the bridge. Terribl what they do to the environment," I said.

Then, The Widgeon's engine started to make weird noises.

As soon as he spotted the columns of smoke, Eddie realize something had to be done.

"Better call the Coast Guard," he said, after no one could figur out how to use the fire extinguisher.

"Better make it fast," sea scout Ian said after he noticed a gasoline leak.

The Coast Guard, in so many words, said "put on life preservers and be prepared to swim for it."

"No need to," Ian said with that dry wit so typical of the English. "We'll be blown up."

I knew then I might have the perfect Preakness scoop with a Dick Francis twist -- "Preakness Trainer Blown Up on Bay." Only I wouldn't be around to write it. They'd be scraping me off the bridge.

Just then, a hero named Charlie Marshall appeared in a cabin cruiser. Soon enough, The Jezebel was towing The Widgeon back to Rock Hall.

Binnie knew we were safe when she spotted Charlie wearing LaCoste shorts . . . A Green Alligator had come to the rescue.

We laughed so hard we cried all the way back to Rock Hall. Fish weren't biting anyway, Charlie said.

"Think I'll play golf tomorrow," quipped Ian, the sea scout no longer. "Except I'm afraid I'll hit some innocent bystander in the head with the ball."

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