12/06/2016 3:18PM

Former trainer Ahrens dead at 66


Leslie “Les” Ahrens, a well-known jockey on the Chicago circuit who later turned to training, died Tuesday morning in Fort Myers, Fla., from injuries he suffered in a motorcycle accident last week.

Ahrens, 66, grew up in the Chicago area and rode his first race in 1968 at age 18. A free spirit who once rode in Greece for a year in the 1980s, Ahrens was well liked and respected on the racetrack.

He won the Illinois Derby on Flag Officer in 1977, and then rode the horse to a 10th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby, the only Derby mount of his career.

Ahrens became a jockey-trainer in the early 1980s before turning exclusively to training in 1991. He trained the good horse Stalwars, as well as Meafara, who Ahrens saddled to finish a narrowly beaten second behind Thirty Slews in the 1992 Breeders’ Cup Sprint. Ahrens retired from training in 2002.

Ahrens is survived by his son, Mike, a chart caller for Equibase; his former wife, Marilyn Ahrens; and two brothers, Phil and Eric.