01/03/2007 12:00AM

Jerkens hopes to make new memories

Email

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Allen Jerkens first came to Gulfstream Park in 1946. Sixty years later, "The Chief" is still going strong and is ready for what he hopes will be another fruitful winter in south Florida in 2007.

"I haven't been here every year since 1946, but I've been here for most of them," Jerkens recalled. "I stayed up in New York at the Old Jamaica Racecourse for four years in the early 50's and I stayed at Belmont for about six years in the early 80's . There's no comparison to what things were like when I first started coming to Gulfstream Park back in the olds days and what they're like here now. There wasn't even a turf course back then. But I've got a nice, beautiful new barn now, and I always enjoy coming down for the winter."

Jerkens said he has many good memories of his Gulfstream Park experiences but made special mention of the four races he won with Sensitive Prince during the winters of 1978 and 1979 as well as the three races he won on opening day in 2002.

"Sensitive Prince never got beat here," said Jerkens. "He won an allowance race, the Hutcheson going seven furlongs, and then the Fountain of Youth as a 3-year-old and returned the following season to win the Gulfstream Park Handicap."

Sensitive Prince's final time of 1:20.80 in the 1978 Hutcheson still shares the stakes record, first set by Shecky Greene five years earlier. His time of 1:41 in the 1 1/16-mile Fountain of Youth is the second fastest in the history of the race while his clocking of 1:59.20 for the 1 1/4-mile Gulfstream Park Handicap is second only to the 1:59 posted by Mat Boy (1984) in the 61-year history of the event.

Jerkens also respects the performances of others as well, most notably Spectacular Bid's victory in the 1979 Florida Derby.

"I haven't seen too many races as impressive as Spectacular Bid's win in the Florida Derby," said Jerkens. "He had to pull up completely on the rail at the five-sixteenths pole, swing to the far outside, and he still won by almost five lengths. It was incredible. In my opinion he was one of the all-time greats."

Jerkens is hoping to create some good stakes memories from the current campaign, beginning this weekend when he sends out Ecclesiastic to compete in either the Grade 3 Hal's Hope Handicap or the Fort Lauderdale Stakes on the turf. Ecclesiastic has not started since finishing fifth in Aqueduct's Grade 3 Ft. Marcy Handicap on April 22. He won 1 of 5 starts in 2006, his lone victory coming over the local turf course in a third-level allowance race.

"He's training great since he's been here, but I'm not sure where I'll run him yet," said Jerkens. "The Hal's Hope is coming up pretty tough with Strong Contender and Sweetnor-thernsaint, but if it's a short field I may take a chance on the dirt. The ideal situation would be to go in the Fort Lauderdale and have it come off the grass, but that would be like drawing an inside straight."

Jerkens also has his Grade 1-winning filly Swap Fliparoo here for the winter and said her first start could come in the Grade 3 First Lady Handicap on Jan. 20. Swap Fliparoo won the Grade 1 Test at Saratoga in 2006.

Slam Bammy set for Mr. Prospector

Trainer Joe Orseno has plenty of good memories from past winters at Gulfstream Park, although he said the one race he will never forget is one he lost - the 2002 Donn Handicap with Red Bullet, who finished second, a neck behind Mongoose, following a horrific trip.

"The assistant starter had Red Bullet's head turned and never turned him loose at the break," Orseno recalled. "Then once he got under way he was in trouble all over the place. And to make matters worse the stewards took us down and placed us fourth."

Orseno is hoping for some better luck this weekend when he runs Slam Bammy in the Grade 3 Mr. Prospector on Saturday and possibly Reata's Rocket on Sunday in the Grade 3 Spectacular Bid. Both horses blew out three furlongs on Wednesday, Slam Bammy going in 34.40 seconds and Reata's Rocket in 36.

Slam Bammy closed out his 2006 campaign with victories in the Eillo and Rutgers stakes at the Meadowlands. He set a track record for six furlongs of 1:07.62 in the Rutgers.

"He's as good now as he's ever been, and we think he fits with this field, but you never know when you get down here what you're going to catch," Orseno said. "If he does run well in the Mr. Prospector we're hoping to take him to Dubai in March for their rich sprint."

Orseno was referring to the $2omillion Dubai Golden Shaheen on March 31 at Nad Al Sheba.

Reata's Rocket won 2 of his 3 starts at 2, including the NATC Futurity at Monmouth on Sept. 23.

"I'm not sure if he'll run on Sunday or not," said Orseno. "I'll see how he's doing after working this morning. We were going to take him to Woodbine following his stakes win in New Jersey but couldn't go because of the quarantine at Monmouth. So I just stopped on him, and while he's physically ready to run, I'm not sure if he's right where I want him just yet."

Orseno also nominated Jersey Peach for Saturday's Hal's Hope, a race the trainer won last year with On Thin Ice, but said the race is coming up too tough and he intends to look for a softer spot for Jersey Peach, a New Jersey-bred stakes winner.