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Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens dead at age 85

Allen Jerkens, a Hall of Fame trainer and one of the most successful and respected individuals in thoroughbred racing history, died Wednesday, March 18 at the age of 85 in Aventura, Fla. He had been hospitalized for several weeks with an infection.


Jerkens was born April 21, 1929 in Islip, N.Y. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1975 at the age of 46 and ranked 11th all time with 3,859 wins and 14th in earnings with $103,754,915 at the time of his death. Jerkens sent out his first winner, a horse named Populace, July 4, 1950 at Aqueduct Racetrack and earned his first stakes win at Jamaica Race Course in New York with War Command.


In the early 1960s, Jerkens began training for Jack Dreyfus’ Hobeau Farm, beating Kelso three times with the Dreyfus-owned Beau Purple. In 1973, Jerkens defeated Secretariat twice — with Onion in the Whitney at Saratoga Race Course and with Prove Out in the Woodward at Belmont.


Known as “The Chief,” Jerkens won the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Trainer in 1973. The New York Turf Writers’ Association named him outstanding trainer in 1957, 1962, 1973, 1992 and 1994. In 2001, the National Turf Writers Association honored him with the Mr. Fitz Award, named for legendary trainer Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons and given to the person who “typifies the spirit of racing.”


Jerkens won a total of 14 training titles at the New York tracks, including four at Saratoga, where the New York Racing Association named its annual training title for him in 2010. His lone Hall of Fame horse is Sky Beauty, a 2011 inductee. Owned by Georgia E. Hofman, Sky Beauty won the Eclipse Award for Champion Older Female in 1994. She won the Triple Tiara in 1993, sweeping the Mother Goose, Coaching Club American Oaks and Alabama, all Grade 1 events. Sky Beauty also won the Adirondack, Matron and Acorn.


Other graded-stakes winners trained by Jerkens include Devil His Due, who won the Wood Memorial and Gotham, as well as consecutive runnings of the Suburban in 1993 and 1994; Classy Mirage, winner of the Ballerina and Prioress; and Kelly Kip, winner of the Tremont, Sanford and Bold Ruler. In 2004, Jerkens won both the Test and the Alabama with Society Selection, who also won the Comely, Frizette and Shuvee.


Jerkens’ final Grade 1 win came in the summer of 2012 when Emma's Encore won the Prioress at Saratoga. Jerkens got his last stakes win at Saratoga in the summer of 2013 when Go Unbridled won her second consecutive Saratoga Dew.


Jerkens' first wife, Ann, died in 1986 and his second wife, Elizabeth, died last year. He is survived by his sons Jimmy and Stephen, who are both trainers, and Allen; a daughter, Julie; and several grandchildren. His grandson, David, is the racing secretary at Del Mar.