03/02/2015 3:16PM

Hall of Famer Jerkens hospitalized with infection

Barbara D. Livingston
Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens, 85, has won 3,858 career races.

Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens is in a south Florida hospital with a serious infection that has led to complications, his son Jimmy Jerkens said Monday.

Allen Jerkens, 85, is in and out of consciousness, according to his son, but on Monday afternoon was showing signs of being responsive. He is breathing with the help of a respirator, Jimmy Jerkens said.

“He squeezed my hand and opened and closed his eyes. It looks like the antibiotics are kicking in,” Jimmy Jerkens said Monday. “As of right now, things are looking a lot better than they were yesterday. He’s making pretty good strides.”

Jimmy Jerkens said that a CT scan showed his father’s “brain activity is good.”

In 2008, Allen Jerkens underwent open-heart surgery, and in 2000, he was hospitalized with pancreatitis.

Jerkens is one of the most respected horsemen in the history of Thoroughbred racing. In a training career that began in 1950, Jerkens has won 3,858 races and ranks 14th all time in purse money won with $103.7 million.

Jerkens earned the nickname “Giant Killer” for his penchant for upsetting some of the biggest stars in the sport. In the 1960s, Jerkens upset Kelso three times with Beau Purple and upset Buckpasser with Handsome Boy. In 1973, he upset the mighty Secretariat with two horses – Onion in the Whitney Handicap and Prove Out in the Woodward. Jerkens won the Eclipse Award as champion trainer in 1973.

In 1975, Jerkens was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, at the time the youngest trainer to earn that distinction.

Also known as “The Chief,” Jerkens was a mentor to many on the backstretch, including Mike Hushion, who, coincidentally, is in a south Florida hospital battling a serious health issue himself.

A staple on the New York Racing Association circuit for decades, Jerkens has been based in south Florida since November 2013.

Jerkens’s second wife, Elisabeth, died last August at the age of 86.