Just as The Special did during the summer of 2012 at Saratoga, we’ll provide some nuggets of wisdom from Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens . . .
Editor’s Note: This article gets updated frequently so be sure to check back often. The dates below are when we posted the quote. The conversations have taken place over the years at Saratoga, Belmont, Florida, anywhere we could sit or stand or walk with The Chief.
The Chief’s Words are brought to you by the New York Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association.
March 10: “You know Assault was a nice horse. You look up his record. I’ll never forget, when he was a 4-year-old and I was at Aqueduct, I was 16 or 17, anyway, he came over there, he was stabled at Belmont and worked a mile and an eighth on Thursday, he was running on Saturday. He worked with two horses. He won going a mile and a quarter, carrying 135 pounds. It’s amazing, the concept has completely turned around. Being around horses, I always say, a horse can be his own worst enemy, he’ll give you more when he’s light on his feet and fresh, but it’ll ruin him. That’s what make it so tough to train. You’ll get away with running a horse that’s extra fit and they win and then you figure that’s what you do with all of them. But you don’t know which ones it really hurts in the end. Same thing with riders. I think hard-whipping jocks shorten the life of a horse. You take some jocks, they never stay with a 2-year-old and all the way through his 3-year-old year. It’s hard to figure out, which is right, which is wrong, which proves to be right, which proves to be wrong.”
March 7: “I wanted to go to the track and some guy promised me a job galloping horses, so I went there, it was a miracle really. Aqueduct, the old Aqueduct. Years and years ago, it was a mile and a quarter, then they made it a mile. I wanted to ride over jumps, I didn’t know what I was doing, wasn’t with anybody, tried to learn by myself. Mickey Walsh always said he’d take me, then the time came and he said you don’t want to be a jump jockey. He must have known. Dooley Adams and Paddy Smithwick were the tops. Dooley was as good as there ever was. Jack McGee was a good rider. Tommy Field was good later on, I rode when he was riding. I didn’t know nothing. We gave $75 for one I rode. Somebody told my father, ‘Look, if you don’t want your son to get killed, tell him to take hold of that horse, don’t be pushing him and letting him run, you’ve got to take hold of him and he’ll complete the course, and he’ll have a much better ride and the horse will jump a lot better.’ So that’s what I did, that’s how little I knew. A friend of ours was riding a horse, just trying to get him around, it was a five horse race, he seen me, and said come up in here, I’m not going any place, I went up in there and wound up being fourth, it was $200 for fourth, he knew we could use that $200.”
March 6: “My father and a friend found an old abandoned Vanderbilt estate, in Oakdale, Long Island. They got the stable, they bought some old hack horses and they had a riding academy. I don’t know how he did it, but people would send him old racehorses and we used to take them in the bay. I remember, one was given to him without the papers and he went along as if he had the papers, gave him a year, got him sound, and he told the trainer, ‘That horse can race again.’ He said, ‘We don’t want to race him again.’ He said, ‘You’ll see him, you’ll want to race him again.’ He sent him in, he was there 10 days and he won. A jumper.”
March 4: “Those big outfits, if they had a good work horse in the morning but didn’t run that good in the afternoon, they would keep him and work with the good horse. Some of them would use two of them, if they work a mile and an eighth, they’d have one pick em up at the half-mile pole. I saw Assault do that, he came over to Aqueduct on Thursday morning and worked a mile and an eighth with two different horses. He carried 135 pounds on Saturday.”
March 2: “Citation would have been undefeated as 2-year-old if it wasn’t for his entrymate, Bewitch. Ben Jones would work them five eighths the day before they ran, in 59. Whirlaway ran in the Derby Trial on Tuesday, blew him out on Friday and he galloped on Saturday. They had a stable rider name Wendell Eads, he got beat on him so they took him off, they sent for Arcaro. Mrs. Whitney said let him go, he’s got a chance to win the Derby, he was under contract for Greentree. He won it five times. Shoemaker, if he didn’t stand up (early), it would have been one more for him and one less for Hartack. Boland told me when he got beat a nose on Sword Dancer, Tomy Lee bumped him and if he didn’t go back and bump him again, he would have beat him, he said Tomy Lee switched gears after he bumped him and he got back and beat him a nose, he said Shoemaker already congratulated him. Shoemaker would come in and ride Forego and those horses, you couldn’t tell when he was leaving, if he won or lost. Just like me (laughs heartily)”
February 28: “When I first came to Aqueduct, there was a farm on both sides of the track. 1945. I used to have to take the train from my house, then take the bus and I’d be walking in at 10 after 6, they’d say, ‘Where the hell do you work, the bank?’ I had been up for three hours just to get there. Then I got a room at the track. The old Aqueduct was really a nice place.
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