08/03/2014 3:34PM

Owner, breeder Elisabeth Jerkens dies

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Elisabeth Jerkens, the wife of Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens and a Thoroughbred owner and breeder, died Sunday morning due to heart failure in a South Florida hospital. She was 86.

Elisabeth Jerkens bred horses for more than four decades, and one of her best was Spite the Devil, a New York-bred who won the Grade 3 Withers Stakes at Aqueduct in 2003 and was a two-time winner of the Evan Shipman Stakes in Saratoga and the Empire Classic at Belmont. He won 8 of 46 races and earned $849,512. She also bred and raced the New York-bred stakes-winning mare Becky’s Flute.

Jerkens raced and bred under the moniker Hardwicke Stable, a name she selected because she has enjoyed reading about the life and times of Bess of Hardwicke, a contemporary of Queen Elizabeth I.

Jerkens owned a breeding farm in Michigan when married to her first husband, a surgeon.

“I just love the breeding business, especially the mares, who I want to hold onto for dear life,” Jerkens said told Daily Racing Form in 2003. “I've always been fascinated by gene pools. Some of our mares weren't great runners, but they had pedigrees I liked, and I now have a couple of their daughters. I have my favorite horses. I have a mare, Love By the Hour, who is by Apalachee, whom I like. I love Graustark and anything with Ribot in it.”

Elisabeth Jerkens married Allen Jerkens in 1987, and the two were married 27 years.

“Up until the last couple of years, she was pretty active with the horses,” Allen Jerkens said Sunday by phone from South Florida, where he is now based. “We had a lot of fun, and we did good together. She was a terrific lady.”

Funeral arrangements were pending as of early Sunday afternoon.