May 19, 1980 12:00 PM

The Odd Couple and Quincy are his well-known successes, but according to Jack Klugman his best show ever ran behind win and place in the Kentucky Derby May 3. Jaklin Klugman, whom the actor co-owns with landscape architect John Dominguez, was pulling away from the heavy favorites at 6 to 1. It nearly turned Klugman’s box into a set for Emergency. “I got so excited I started to hyperventilate,” says the 58-year-old divorcé, who meanwhile was kneading the frail shoulders of his date to the Derby, Barbara Neaugass. “I really thought we had it won.” That they didn’t distracted him only for a moment from being “happy as a pig in you-know-what. Third in the Derby! It’s in the record books forever! If this is a dream, I hope it never ends.”

Familiar (and beloved) at pari-mutuel windows from coast to coast, Klugman has won and lost a small fortune on horse races; yet he declined to bet on Jaklin. “I’m the world’s worst handicap-per,” he confesses. “I bet on ’em, they lose.” Klugman met his partner in 1962 while temporarily tapped out one day at Santa Anita. Dominguez sympathetically offered him a $50 loan for a final fling. For the past 10 years the two men have owned also-rans, but with the success of Jaklin (named when a stableboy mistook him for a filly) they are once again nourishing high hopes. Co-owners of 10 other horses, they plan to open a 20-acre horse farm outside San Diego—and next month will introduce Jaklin’s brother, Jack’s Promise, at Hollywood Park. Klugman jokes that Jaklin’s Derby finish disproves the Kentucky purist belief in “spending millions to raise a good horse. We got an $800 mare, a $500 stud and here we are.”

Jaklin is scheduled to run in the Preakness next weekend and perhaps the Belmont June 7. After that Klugman must return to Hollywood to begin shooting next fall’s Quincy episodes. He dreads going back. “This horse made me realize that all I was doing was working,” he said after the race. It is clearly not a mistake he will make again. “This was two years of thrills,” he adds, “compressed into the greatest two minutes of my life.”

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