03/22/2015 9:50AM

Watchmaker: Jerkens deserves Grade 1 race named for him


Allen Jerkens, the Hall of Fame trainer who died Wednesday, was a great man and a true racing legend. And those of us who had the highest respect for him, which are legion, know that every single accolade sent Jerkens’s way the last couple of days was thoroughly deserved.

And there has been a flood of them. In fact, the outpouring of emotion from the racing community on Jerkens’s passing has been stunning to observe. I can’t say I recall anything quite like it.

Jerkens, being who he was, is, of course, the principal reason. And social media, given how ubiquitous it has become, played a role, too. Twitter isn’t even 9 years old yet, so most of the other late titans of the sport never received the social media treatment Jerkens has. You have to wonder what he would think about that.

But I’ve been thinking about it, and I suspect a key component to why we all reacted as emotionally as we did to the passing of Allen Jerkens is that he was one of the last living links to a time when our game was truly king. There aren’t many, if any, even remotely like him left. When we lose a legend like Mr. Jerkens, it is a brutal reminder that eras end, and time marches on.

Still, we can try to hold on to as much as we possibly can by commemorating Allen Jerkens the best way racing can, and that is by naming a stakes race after him. And in this case, it can’t be some nondescript Grade 2 or 3 race. It has to be a race befitting the man. It has to be a Grade 1 race, it must be in New York, and it should be at Saratoga.

There are 17 Grade 1 stakes to be run this summer at Saratoga, and one of them should be renamed The H. Allen Jerkens. Some of those Saratoga Grade 1s – such as the Travers, Whitney, Coaching Club American Oaks, and Alabama – have way too much history to be renamed. And even though there has been a mini-Twitter movement to rename the Woodward in honor of Jerkens, I think that race also has too much history to be renamed (although, apparently, not enough to be tinkered with; I’d like to see the Woodward back at Belmont in the fall, but that’s a blog for another time).

Some Saratoga Grade 1s would just be poor fits for Jerkens and the record he fashioned, like, obviously, the two steeplechase stakes or the Sword Dancer or Diana on turf or the two 2-year-old Grade 1s – the Hopeful and Spinaway.

However, two Saratoga Grade 1 races that would be ideal candidates for renaming would be the Ballerina and Test. It might surprise you to know that Jerkens won those races three times each (more than his one win in the Woodward), so there would be nice synchronicity there.

Quick Saturday notes

Emotions were high at Gulfstream on Saturday when Classic Point, formerly trained by Jerkens and now trained by his son Jimmy, upset the Inside Information. Unfortunately, House Rules, who had the same profile, could only manage second at odds on three races later in the Royal Delta.

Sheer Drama, a key figure in that controversial call by the Gulfstream stewards in last month’s Rampart to leave house House Rules up, was really good Saturday. She was much better than I thought she could be going two turns.

Finnegans Wake’s three straight stakes wins going into Saturday’s San Luis Rey weren’t illusions. But his no-excuse second at odds on in the San Luis Rey was a reminder that no matter how good a turf horse looks right now, always keep in mind what time of year it is. The male and female turf divisions get exponentially deeper and tougher the second half of the year.

Count me a skeptic when it comes to the Spiral winner Dubai Sky, and not entirely because his four-wide trip Saturday put him out in the best footing on apparently yet another day when the Turfway rail was death. As a sharp person on Twitter pointed out to me, Dubai Sky won two races last year, both going long. Considering all the ridiculous horses who were nominated to the Triple Crown at first closing, how could Dubai Sky not be nominated, even if his two route wins at 2 were on turf?

Whether or not Dubai Sky is made a late Triple Crown nominee for $6,000 by Monday’s deadline is immaterial. He is owned by Three Chimneys Farm and Besilu Stables and trained by Bill Mott. These are very, very smart people. And yet they did not nominate an active colt who won twice going two turns at 2. I find that telling.