Allen Jerkens dies at 85; Hall of Fame thoroughbred trainer pulled off memorable upsets

By Richard Rosenblatt
Thoroughbred trainer Allen Jerkens, known for his horses' upsets of Secretariat in 1973, dies at 85

Allen Jerkens, the Hall of Fame trainer who pulled off some of horse racing's biggest upsets and was affectionately known as "The Chief," died Wednesday in South Florida, his family said. He was 85.

Jerkens had been ill for several weeks with an infection and had been admitted to a hospital earlier in the month.

Horses from Jerkens' barn twice pulled off memorable upsets of 1973 Triple Crown winner Secretariat, first with Onion in the '73 Whitney Handicap at Saratoga and then with Prove Out in the Woodward Stakes at Belmont Park. Secretariat lost only three other times in a 21-race career. Jerkens won the Eclipse Award as trainer of the year.

In the 1960s, Jerkens' Beau Purple upset five-time Horse of the Year Kelso three times, which led to the trainer's other nickname, "The Giant Killer."

Among other horses he trained were 1994 champion older female Sky Beauty, Devil His Due, Missy's Mirage and Emma's Encore. Jerkens, who was named to the Hall of Fame in 1975, trained 3,859 winners of nearly $104 million and was still training before entering the hospital.

"Everyone knows what he meant to this industry," his son Jimmy Jerkens, also a trainer who worked as his father's assistant until 1997, told the Daily Racing Form. "God, I hung on his every word for most of my life. He was my one and only hero."

H. Allen Jerkens, born on April 21, 1929, in Islip, N.Y., was a steeplechase rider for a short time before he became a trainer in 1950. He won his first race with Populace at Aqueduct Racetrack the same year. He was the leading trainer on the New York racing circuit four times between 1957 and 1969, and won four training titles at Aqueduct and three at Belmont Park.

Besides his son Jimmy, Jerkens is survived by sons Steven, also a trainer, and Allen; and a daughter, Julie. Among his grandchildren is David Jerkens, the racing secretary at Del Mar.

Rosenblatt writes for the Associated Press.

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