Horse racing lost one of its greatest fans when Jack Klugman died at the age of 90 Monday in Woodland Hills.
The renowned actor, whose Jaklin Klugman finished third behind
the filly Genuine Risk in the 1980 Kentucky Derby, was star of stage,
screen and television, best known in the latter venue as slovenly sports
writer Oscar Madison who played opposite fastidious roommate Felix
Unger (Tony Randall) in Neil Simon’s classic comedy, “The Odd Couple.”
Klugman, a native of Philadelphia, also starred as a
crime-fighting coroner in TV’s “Quincy, M.E.” and in the gripping 1957
Academy Award-nominated film, “12 Angry Men” with Henry Fonda.
“He was a great human being who loved horse racing,” said Barry
Abrams, who trains two horses for Klugman, Very Unusual and Pretty
Peggy, the latter named for Klugman’s wife.
“Every spare moment he had, he was always at the track to bet,”
Abrams said. “I went to see him last Thursday and he was happy and in a
good mood. He died of old age. He wasn’t really suffering. Old age just
got to him.
“His wife called me and said he just never woke up on Monday.”
Trainer Bob Bean also had fond memories of Klugman.
“He was my best friend for 35 years,” Bean said. “He sat down
next to me in a bookie joint in Las Vegas in 1977. I didn’t know who he
was. He asked me if I wanted to split a dollar double at Aqueduct.
That’s how we became friends.
“When Jaklin (Klugman) ran the first time he got me tickets and
was going to fly me down for his maiden race at Hollywood Park. The
horse won and Jack turned to me and said, ‘You have to be here every
time; you’re good luck.’
“At that point in my life I had never touched a horse. Later I
went to the Derby with the horse, became the hot walker, and that’s how I
got in the business, because of Klugman.”