Allen Jerkens, Legendary Thoroughbred Trainer, Dies at 85

Allen "The Giant Killer" Jerkens was one of the greatest thoroughbred trainers of all time.
Allen "The Giant Killer" Jerkens was one of the greatest thoroughbred trainers of all time.
Photo by Michele Eve Sandberg

Allen Jerkens, Hall of Fame thoroughbred trainer and legend of the sport of horse racing, has died at the age of 85. Jerkens was nicknamed the "Giant Killer" thanks to his horses constant take-downs of favored big-name thoroughbreds over the years. In 1973, Jerkens' horse Onion bested legendary Triple Crown winner Secretariat at the Whitney Handicap. Also in '73, Jerkens saddled a horse named Prove Out who went out and took out both Secretariat and 1972 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes winner Riva Ridge at the Jockey Club Gold Cup. 

Bigger still was the fact that another of Jerkens' horses, Beau Purple, defeated all-time great Kelso three out of the four times the thoroughbreds faced off.

Jerkens began his career as a horse trainer in 1950 as a steeplechase jockey, and went on to become one of the greatest trainers in the history of the sport. He was voted the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Trainer in 1973 and, at age 45, went on to become the youngest trainer ever inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. 

In recent years, Jerkens spent time training his horses at Gulfstream. His last victory as a trainer came at Gulfstream on March 6 in a furious down-to-the-wire finish where Jerkens' Easement bested Butterfly Strike, Uptown Joe and Carson City Brew by a nose.

In all, Jerkens' horses earned him $104 million throughout his career. Those thoroughbred champions included 13-time stakes winner Sky Beauty, Caress, Classy Mirage, Devil His Due, Kelly Kip, November Snow, Society Selection and Wagon Limit.

Jerkens had been hospitalized with an infection back on February 28. He succumbed to his illness on Wednesday in Aventura. He is survived his sons, Allen, Steven, and Jimmy; a daughter, Julie; and several grandchildren. Jerkens' wife, Elisabeth, passed away last year.

Gulfstream will be holding a memorial for Jerkens on March 24 at the Sport of Kings Theater.


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