It doesn't take long to figure out that Leslie Legum doesn't take himself too seriously.
Almost immediately after you walk into the Legums' elegant, art-filled penthouse in the Park Towers East, there is a stuffed, life-like mannequin of Leslie sitting in an antique chair.
"That's me," Legum said. "Have a seat."
Leslie and Naomi Legum have been married for 53 years and are about to experience a once-in-a-lifetime thrill.
They own 20 percent of Technology, one of the favorites in this week's Kentucky Derby. They will go to Louisville later this week to take part in the festivities leading up to the 118th running of the race on Saturday.
Legum, 80, has spent a lifetime amassing a fortune in the automobile and real estate development business in Baltimore.
He still goes to the office almost daily when he is in town and is involved in developing commercial real estate near Baltimore-Washington International Airport.
Although they could well afford it, the Legums didn't own horses until just a few years ago.
"I was looking for something to do in Florida, where we spend the winter," Legum said. "I was heading into semi-retirement. One thing I started to do was to take watercolor classes. The other was to buy some racehorses."
The Legums had luck from the beginning.
"We bought a filly in partnership with our friend, Alice Hechter," Mrs. Legum said. "Alice couldn't remember names very well. When we'd see someone, she kept saying, 'Who is she? Who is she?' Well, that's what we named our first horse, Hushi. Everyone thought it was Japanese, something like sushi."
Hushi turned out to be a multiple stakes winner and started a Legum thoroughbred buying spree.
The Legums are involved in partnerships owning about 14 race horses.
Sonny Hine trains five of the horses in Florida, including Technology, who won the Grade I Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park.
Nine horses are trained in Maryland by Ben Perkins Jr. and compete under the name of the Candy Stable. Included in this group is Surely Six, recent runner-up in the Cherry Hill Mile at Garden State Park.
The Legums aren't interested in owning any horses by themselves or investing in breeding stock.
"We don't want to be bookkeepers. We don't want to be accountants. We just want to go to the races and have fun," Legum said.
The Legums have been lifelong racing devotees.
Naomi Legum remembers going to Pimlico as a youngster. Her father, L. Manuel Hendler, owned the Hendler's Ice Cream Company. "We always had a box at Pimlico, and I can still remember sitting on the steps of the old clubhouse," she said.
"We also had a chauffeur who loved to go to the races. He was always looking for an excuse to take me and my sister so he could bet on the horses," she said.
Mrs. Legum was educated at Friends School. "I was in the same class as Bernie Bond [one of the state's leading trainers]," she said.
The Legums met at a performance of "Daughter of the Regiment" at the Lyric Opera House in 1937. They were married two years later.
Legum's father had founded the Park Circle Motor Co. in Baltimore in 1920.
"It was the second-oldest automobile dealership in town," Legum said. He took over the business in 1948 and then turned it over to one of his sons, Jeffrey, in 1964.
"Today Jeffrey operates Westminster Motors, which is still incorporated as Park Circle," Legum said.
The Legums have another son, Douglas, who is in the real estate business. They have four grandchildren.
The partnership that owns Technology was formed by Scott Savin. The 32-year-old horseman is learning to be a trainer under Hine's tutelage.
Savin is the managing partner of the Technology syndicate, and the horse will carry his silks in the Derby.
The other partners are: real estate executives Robert and Albert Ades of New York; Ridgefield, N.J., businessman Bernard Mann, one of the owners of the New Jersey Nets; and Harold Rothstein, a real estate executive from Boca Raton, Fla.
"It's not a cohesive group," Mrs. Legum said. "We're scattered all over the East Coast. But when we go to see Technology run, we have lunch together and we'll all be at the Kentucky Derby."
Among the Legums' friends in racing are Frank and Ginny Wright, who got them involved in the Candy Stable partnership; Ben and Zelda Cohen, former owners of Pimlico; Betty Shea Miller, former manager of Merryland Farm; and Stiles Colwill, son the late Fred Colwill, who was chief steward at Maryland thoroughbred tracks.
Colwill said he got to know the Legums when he was curator of the Maryland Historical Society.
"They were very generous benefactors, angels as a matter of fact," Colwill said. "Mrs. Legum's father had a superb collection of early Maryland furniture, and they donated several pieces to the Historical Society.
"I remember going to them many times for a donation or for help in buying a particular piece that we wanted.
"Mr. Legum would say, 'Well, Pudgie [Mrs. Legum's childhood nickname], what do you think?'
"And Mrs. Legum would reply, 'Well, you only go around once. Let's do it.'
"And that's the way they are. They have been very generous
citizens of the state of Maryland."