03/22/2015 10:50AM

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.

Chad mc rory More than 1 year ago
Since this is obviously a winner at the grass roots level, how about some encouragement from the top down... One call from Mr. Phipps to the powers that be could work wonders. I don't seem to find him on my speed-dial, Mike but I'd bet that you could get through.
Kevin Cox More than 1 year ago
A race and a statue are both nice ideas, but as "... the The George Woolf Memorial Jockey Award has been presented by Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California, annually since 1950 to the thoroughbred horse racing jockey in North America who demonstrates high standards of personal and professional conduct, on and off the racetrack.[1] " ( Credit, Wiki ) Why can't there be a national award for a trainer that does the same. This man is the prototype for something like this. He gave many people "a shot". Riders that turned out okay, if not spectacular ( heck, he even gave my 5% fella a few chances in Saratoga a few years back ! ). He molded trainers, and made fair people good, and good people better. NEVER an infraction, yet alone a positive, and was the rare trainer that wore his heart on his sleeve, unlike many conditioners whose "true" intentions in and of the sport are shall we say, "slightly askew". Once a year, those that he molded, Jimmy, Ray Ganpath, Leah, Uske, Fernando, can present the annual H. Allen Jerkens Horsemanship award at the New York Turfwriters dinner, and this award can be given to ANY trainer in ANY state. DIg it.
TEDK215 More than 1 year ago
only slightly askew? what an under understatement!
Hail No More than 1 year ago
Great idea.
harpharper . More than 1 year ago
The Allen Jerkins Met Mile.
Randy Baker More than 1 year ago
I realize Mr.Jerkins raced primarily on the east coast and i'm pretty sure a track there will eventually and deservedly honor his memory with a suitable race.However in the slim chance they fail to do so,I suggest renaming the (Frontrunner Stakes)at Santa Anita.Who came up with that name?Or the Awesome Again .Did he ever race at Santa Anita?
Paul McAleavey More than 1 year ago
I think there have been too many races renamed lately. The last couple of years there has been complaining of not enough races 1@1/4 or longer and then suddenly there were several added at Belmont including there Stars and Stripes Day. Other tracks didn't add but one or two but Nyra added what used to be legendary race distances back into the mix. Yet yesterday they had stakes like The Videogenic a horse that won 1.5 on turf in routes 30 years ago finally be given a race named after her and it was a 6 furlong dirt race. Other new stake races keep popping up at Nyra despite them constantly saying they're losing money because they went from 1 president and 1 vp making 6 figures to more like 20 big wigs plus all their secretaries making 6 figures or 7. I think a race for Allen Herkens could be on any surface at any distance for and sex as he won them all. I think one of the new races at the Stars and Stripes day could be right. Yea I know the sentiment bc Saratoga is the graveyard of champions and he beat most there but he was typically a Belmont man. I was afraid when he stayed in Florida that he was not well, then his wife and with him it was no surprise to me. Most people won't realuze all he's done. More than Frankel in some people's opinions and Equal with the legendary Woody Stephens. He was a legend killer and I think that card proved to be a possible legendary addition that brought in a lot of international appeal unlike anything that's ever happened at Belmont except Belmont day. I think that would be perfect.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Saratoga for sure.
drserv More than 1 year ago
The race that should be named after Allen Jerkens is the King's Bishop, which was a horse that he trained. He won the Carter handicap as a 4 year old (on the same day Secretariat won the Preakness) and was a nice horse, but not really what you would call the kind who should have a Grade 1 named after him. Ir would be perfectly proper to rename this race for his trainer
DRFWatchmaker More than 1 year ago
Um, no. The late T. J. Kelly trained King's Bishop.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
TJ Kelly did train Kings Bishop , but I think Bohemia Stable bought and raced him with Allen Jerkens training in the later part of his career.
drserv More than 1 year ago
Kelly trained him at 3. Jerkens trained him at 4 after he was sold for future stud duties to the Duponts
DRFWatchmaker More than 1 year ago
You are indeed correct. He did go to Jerkens after T. J. Kelly had him.
Mark D More than 1 year ago
How about the Allen Jerkens Woodward Stakes??
Salvatore Agro More than 1 year ago
Mike, I said that three days ago. Thanks for telling everyone what thet already know.
DRFWatchmaker More than 1 year ago
That's funny.
saratogajunkie More than 1 year ago
Allen Jerkens Metropolitan Mile
tommy More than 1 year ago
I like that name. He had trained the famous onion who beat secretariat !!
Tim Sr. More than 1 year ago
Thank goodness for Wiki, huh Tommy