08/04/2011 11:01AM

Q&A: Jerry Hollendorfer

Barbara D. Livingston

The sport’s fourth-winningest trainer, with 5,988 victories through Aug. 2, he will be inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame next Friday, Aug. 12.

Birthdate: June 18, 1946, in Akron, Ohio

Family: wife, Janet

Got into racing because. . .  I was in Northern California, going to the races, and I wanted to find out what the backside was all about. I got a job walking hots, and I stayed.

What brought you to Northern California? I had friends out there who I came to visit. Once I got there, I said, “This is for me.”

Was that after college? Yes. I graduated from Akron University. When I went there, it was called Akron State. I got a B.S. in business administration, marketing.

But you didn’t pursue that field: You know how it was back then. A lot of people were lost. I was one of them.

Were you a hippie? I don’t know if I would have called myself that, but I wasn’t very stable.

Did you have long hair? There’s some photos. But they’re not for publication.

It’s hard to reconcile that you were that way compared to the way you are today. That’s quite a contrast: Most of the people here would not believe what I was like when I was younger. I had very little discipline and no direction. But I think the way you are raised matters. No matter how far you get off that path, you can come back and think, “Maybe these people knew what they were trying to teach me.”

Did you have any background in racing before going to San Francisco? I used to go to the races once in a while in Ohio at Ascot Park, or to Northfields to watch the trotters. But my family had no horse experience. Fate plays a big role. Once I was on the backside of the track, I felt very comfortable. I could work with horses. I knew I could learn this. I loved it right away.

Who did you first work with? A trainer named Dan Wilcher. He had a horse named Rigatoni King who won a stakes race at Santa Anita. After that, I went to work for Jerry Dutton and then Jerry Fanning. What I learned about racing, I learned from those guys. They are really good horsemen.

How did it feel to get the call informing you that you were going into the Hall of Fame? It’s a very big honor. It’s hard to believe that the people I’ve looked up to − Charlie Whittingham, Woody Stephens, Wayne Lukas − I’m going to be in there with them.

You are incredibly competitive. Have you always been that way? I had to be the first one at the bus stop in the morning when I was a kid, even if that meant that in the morning, I had to get up early.

Did you play sports? I would have loved to have played all sports, but I’m small, so football was out, and I’m too short for basketball. I did wrestle in high school.

How many horses do you have now? I have 150: 100 at Golden Gate, 50 here at Del Mar. I try to spend my time so that I see all my horses work, so I do my flying and schedule my week to see all my horses work. I’ve surrounded myself with the very best help. To have a large stable, I couldn’t do it without the people I have.

That obviously includes your wife, who oversees your Northern California string: Yes, that includes Janet, definitely. We’ve been married 28 years. I want her to go to the Hall of Fame, but I don’t know if she’ll be able to do it. It’s hard for her to fly [following a brain tumor in 2009].

Best horse trained? People always gravitate toward current times, so I’d have to say Blind Luck, but I’ve been fortunate to have so many others, like Heatseeker, Lite Light, Hystericalady, and Pike Place Dancer.

Best horse seen? Seattle Slew. He was the grandest horse. I was a big Seattle Slew fan.

Hobbies: I like to read. I keep a book going at all times. It’s kind of a diversion, gets my mind focused on something else for a little while. I get through quite a few books. I mostly read fiction. I’m reading a book now by James Lee Burke. I also like Ken Follett, Michael Connelly, and John Connolly.”

Future ambitions? I feel like I’m getting some years on me. I’d like to keep going as long as I’m comfortable, as long as it doesn’t feel like a job.