It was 1947 when trainer Allen Jerkens first arrived at Gulfstream Park.
In his late teens at the time, Jerkens started rubbing horses and
learning his craft at Gulfstream before taking out his trainer's license
and winning his first race in 1950 in New York.
The storied horseman, now 83-years-old, is once again back in Barn 14
at Gulfstream for the 2013 season. While he doesn’t train from his long
familiar seat aboard a stable pony these days, Jerkens keeps the same
schedule as he has for more than 60 years, watching his horses on the
track from the three-eighths pole viewing stand.
According to Jerkens, Gulfstream and Hallandale Beach have come a
long way since he first stepped foot in the area 65 years ago.
“I first came here in '47 when they used to rotate the early and
late season dates between here and old Tropical Park (Hialeah in the
middle)," said the noted horsemen known widely as "The Chief," who will
saddle his Grade I winner Emma's Encore in Saturday's $150,000 Florida
Sunshine Millions Fillies & Mares Sprint.
"There wasn’t much of anything around here. They would take horses
to exercise on the beach. The bridge (over inter-coastal) was an old
wooden thing that would swing open and closed. There was only one
building on Hallandale Beach Boulevard between here and the beach.”
Jerkens career has been one of the most remarkable in racing. Not
only is he referred to as "The Chief," but he's been dubbed by some
journalists as the ‘The Giant Killer’ following the memorable upset
victories posted over several decades, beginning with Beau Purple
defeating Kelso three times, Handsome Boy’s victory over Buckpasser in
the ‘60s, and Onion and Prove Out’s separate victories over Triple Crown
legend Secretariat in 1973.
Each of those Jerkens stars carried the famous blue and orange
colors of Wall Street legend Jack Dreyfus’ Hobeau Farm, Jerkens’
longtime client and friend.
In 1975, Jerkens became the youngest trainer elected to the Hall of
Fame at age 45 and has continued to add to his virtually un-paralleled
record of accomplishment to this day after developing some 160 stakes
winners. His most notable victories at Gulfstream include Sensitive
Prince and Devil His Due in the Gulfstream Park Handicaps of 1979 and
1993, respectively. But the "The Chief" has had a number of other
successes at Gulfstream.
In 1978 Jerkens sent out the 3-year-old Sensitive Prince to win the
Hutcheson Stakes (G2) and Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream,
remaining undefeated at the time.
"He loved the race track and won all four of his starts here,"
recalled Jerkens of the son of Majestic Prince who won 14 of 20 career
starts. "We moved the stable over here the next year when he won the
Gulfstream Park Handicap going a mile-and-a-quarter as a
A more recent Jerkens’ star that showed a particular fondness for
the Gulfstream main track was Joseph V. Shields, Jr.’s top sprint filly
Any Limit. A homebred daughter of Limit Out, Any Limit won the First
Lady Stakes (G3) and Hurricane Bertie Stakes (G3) in 2007 and the latter
again 2009. She also finished second in the 2007 Shirley Jones
Breeders’ Cup Handicap (G2) and 2009 edition (name changed to Inside
Another notable Shields homebred developed by Jerkens wintered at
Gulfstream early in the 1998 season and made history later that year.
Wagon Limit finished fourth in the Donn Handicap (G1) and fifth in the
Gulfstream Park Handicap (G1), but went on to conclude his campaign that
fall at Belmont Park winning Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) at odds of
38-to-1 over Skip Away and Gentlemen.
For Jerkens, the hits seem to keep coming with his latest star being
Emma's Encore, winner of the $300,000 Prioress Stakes (G1) last summer
“She was a pleasant surprise,” said Jerkens. “It was nice that so
many people came up to the winners’ circle to congratulate us after the
A $2,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase, Emma’s Encore came to
Jerkens last winter at Gulfstream as a maiden after three starts as a
2-year-old at Hoosier Park, Kentucky Downs and Keeneland. She made four
starts at the Gulfstream meet, beginning with a third, then two wins and
a well-beaten eighth in the Gulfstream Oaks (G2) while trying a
distance for the first and only time in her career thus far.
Turned back to sprints in New York, she posted an upset win at 39-1 in
the Victory Ride Stakes (G3) at Belmont Park in early July before a
hard-fought nose victory in the Prioress. In two more starts last season
she finished sixth after a ‘bobble and bump’ at the start of the
Gallant Bloom Handicap (G2) at Belmont in September and eighth last out
in the TCA Stakes (G2) on Polytrack at Keeneland on Oct. 6.
You see, while Jerkens isn't riding out on the track to watch his
horses train these mornings at Gulfstream, “The Chief” is at the barn
every morning and in the viewing stand still doing what he has so well
for some seven decades, which is to see things in horses that few others
can and serve as an inspiration to those lucky enough to spend time in