LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Hall of Fame trainer Ron McAnally was in a talkative mood yesterday while he waited on the tarmac for his horse, Dr Devious, to deplane at Standiford Field in Louisville.
He purchased the English-based colt, with the help of his friend Murray Friedlander, for two of his newest patrons, Jenny Craig, the founder of Weight Watchers, and her husband, Sidney.
"I had had some horses for them before, but after they put their company on the stock exchange, and the stock shot straight up, they really decided to buy some quality horses," McAnally said.
He purchased the top Argentine mare, Paseana, for the Craigs, and she might well end up this year's champion older filly and mare. Her most recent win came in the Grade I Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park.
"Then Mrs. Craig wanted to buy a Derby prospect for her husband," McAnally said. "I told her that it was going to cost her a lot of money. This is Derby Fever time. If you have a good 3-year-old, you can command just about any price. Shelley Riley paid $7,500 for her colt Casual Lies, and turned down $3 million. My wife once bought a colt [Silver Ending] for $1,500 and turned down $2 million for him before the Derby. That's something, by the way, I still remind Mrs. McAnally about from time to time.
"But Mrs. Craig said go ahead. We couldn't find anything that was for sale in this country. Then we found a colt in France. But he didn't pass the vet [veterinary examination]. His price was $1.5 million.
"I had just about given up when Dr Devious came on the market in England. Murray, who used to be a trainer, spends half his time in France and the other half in California. He speaks fluent French. Dr Devious was owned by an Italian and trained in Britain by a young Englishman named Peter Chapple-Hyam. The colt won the Dewhurst Stakes as a 2-year-old, which is an important lTC race in England."
Jenny Craig bought the horse for $2.5 million for her husband as a 60th birthday present.
"She had a three-day birthday party for him in Palm Springs for about 100 people, and picked up the tab for everyone's stay," McAnally said. "On the first day there was a tennis tournament. Then on the second night they had a black tie affair. I had gone over to England and seen the colt's first [and only] race this year, the Craven Stakes at Newmarket. He finished second.
"She had a large screen and we showed a tape of the race so everyone could see the gift horse. The third day they had another sports event. They are very weight conscious, you know."
McAnally said that Chapple-Hyam has been galloping Dr Devious on a dirt track in England, trying to acclimate the horse to American-style racing.
"The starting gates in England don't have a bell, so the trainer there has been setting off an alarm clock when the colt breaks," McAnally said.
"We've also sent over rim shoes for him to wear. In Europe, horses can only race in flat shoes, unlike America. So we've been trying to get him acquainted at least with American racing plates."
* Expect a field of 19 to 20 starters in Saturday's Derby.
"I don't think we'll have to use the earnings rule," Tom Meeker, the president of Churchill Downs, said yesterday.
The size of the field is limited to 20 starters. If the field hits 20, then horses are accepted accorded to the amount of their winnings in graded stakes.
There were 23 eligibles going into last weekend, but horses such as Treekster, John the Bold and Hill Pass have been withdrawn.
Of the 20 potential starters listed yesterday, Hickman Creek, trained by D. Wayne Lukas, is considered a doubtful runner.
Lukas is expected to announce definite plans today for the horse. Lukas has two other horses, Dance Floor and Al Sabin, in the race, and apparently has decided two is enough.