01/01/2010 12:00AM

Jerkens glad to be back at Gulfstream

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Barbara D. Livingston
Allen Jerkens, 80, who made his first visit to Gulfstream Park in 1946, has four horses entered on Sunday's card, including Le Grand Cru in the featured Hal's Hope.

Allen Jerkens greeted the New Year on Friday morning watching horses train from the barn area at Gulfstream Park. It was in much the same manner he did 64 winters earlier when he paid his first visit to south Florida in 1946.

Jerkens, 80, will be busy right off the bat when Gulfstream ushers in its 2010 meet on Sunday, sending out four starters on opening day, including Le Grand Cru in the $100,000 Hal's Hope Stakes.

"I've been coming down here since '46 but missed a few years along the way," Jerkens recalled. "I stayed in New York for a couple of winters during the 50's to give the horses a break. I went to California in '63 and '64 and I was wasn't here from '82 through '86 either. My first wife was sick at the time and I wasn't doing that good either, so I stayed around home."

Jerkens has been coming back ever since and was looking forward to the opening of another meet on Sunday. Even though he has been a little under the weather for much of the past week with a case of the flu, Jerkens has remained a regular on the racetrack aboard his stable pony during training hours.

"No matter how bad I feel when I wake up in the morning, I always feel better once I get out to the track and up on horseback," said Jerkens.

Le Grand Cru and the top sprinter Formidable are the two top guns in the Jerkens stable. Le Grand Cru, a son of Dynaformer owned by Judson Streicher, closed out his 2009 campaign by winning a pair of Grade 3 races, Belmont's Kelso Handicap and Aqueduct's Bold Ruler Handicap.

"He got a little lucky in those two races because the fields came up small," said Jerkens. "But he did beat a horse that finished second in the Breeders' Cup [Ready's Echo] in one of them. It's a pretty tough race here Sunday but where else is there to go? He's doing well so you've got to try it."

Jerkens, who said Formidable could run next Saturday in the Grade 3 Mr. Prospector, also has some 3-year-olds he has high hopes for this winter.

"I've got a few I really like but we'll see," said Jerkens. "The proof is in the eating."