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Durkin, Jerkens, Lukas Honored at Saratoga

Tom Durkin 615 X 400
Photo: zatt
Hall of Fame trainers H. Allen Jerkens and D. Wayne Lukas, along with legendary track announcer Tom Durkin, were honored Friday in the second annual "Red Jacket" ceremony in the winners' circle at Saratoga Race Course to unveil individual bronze plaques commemorating their achievements.


Lukas and Durkin were presented with Saratoga red blazers by Chris Kay, CEO and president of the New York Racing Association, Inc., to celebrate their long and storied history at the track. Jerkens' son, Jimmy, accepted the blazer on behalf of his father, who expressed his gratitude from Florida's Gulfstream Park on a video shown on the HD screen in the infield, and throughout Saratoga Race Course.


A member of both the Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame and the Quarter Horse Hall of Fame, Lukas has trained 25 Eclipse champions, more than any other trainer in history. In addition to having won four Kentucky Derbies, six Preakness Stakes and four Belmont Stakes, Lukas saddled the winners of three editions of the Travers: Corporate Report (1991), Thunder Gulch (1995) and last year's eventual 3-year-old champion Will Take Charge. He also won the Saratoga training title six times.


"I don't think anyone receives an honor as distinguished as this without help; you certainly don't do it on your own," said Lukas. "I'm really proud of one thing at Saratoga; I was thinking back today, and led by Todd [Pletcher] who is in a class all by himself, we have had these young assistants who all came through our program and I'd like to acknowledge them - Todd Pletcher, Kiaran McLaughlin, Dallas Stewart, George Weaver, Mike Maker, Mark Hennig, and all of them are very active here and doing very, very well. That's what makes me the proudest. I don't think anyone gets here without those guys backing me all those years. They were wonderful guys and I'm so proud of them."


Durkin, who announced his retirement earlier this year, has called the races for 43 years, 24 of them with the New York Racing Association. Many of his most memorable calls came at Saratoga, including Holy Bull's victory in the 1994 Travers, Rachel Alexandra's triumph in the 2009 Woodward and the unforgettable New York-bred, Arrrrr. Including the Breeders' Cup, which he called from its inception until 2005, and the Triple Crown, which he called for 10 years, Durkin has called races at more than 50 tracks in six countries.


"As you can see, I've had the privilege of getting the best seat in the house for some of the most dramatic and exciting competitions of the last 40 years, and it's with great gratitude that I accept the award today," said Durkin. "I find it almost difficult to absorb being honored in the same way as Allen Jerkens and D. Wayne Lukas. These two people are at the very top of my list as being the most admired people in the game. I am honored to share this honor with them."  


The legendary Jerkens, for whom the coveted Saratoga training title is named, was elected to racing's Hall of Fame in 1975 at the age of 45, then the youngest trainer so honored. After taking out his license in 1950, Jerkens fashioned a stellar career that was punctuated by some of the biggest upsets in racing history including two over 1973 Triple Crown winner Secretariat, with Prove Out in the Woodward at Belmont Park and with Onion in the Whitney at Saratoga.


Hall of Fame jockeys Angel Cordero, Jr., Jerry Bailey, and John Velazquez were honored in last year's inaugural "Red Jacket" ceremony.


The plaques for all will be displayed on the boards next to the Jockeys' Silks porch at Saratoga as the Saratoga Red Jacket Walk of Fame.



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