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 on Wednesday. He was 85.
Jerkens had been ill for several weeks, and had been admitted to a hospital in South Florida earlier in the month. He died late Wednesday afternoon, said his son, Jimmy Jerkens.
Horses from Allen Jerkens' barn twice pulled off memorable upsets of 1973 Triple Crown winner Secretariat, first with Onion in the `73 Whitney Handicap and then with Prove Out in the Woodward Stakes. In the 1960s, his Beau Purple upset five-time Horse of the Year Kelso three times, which led to Jerkens' 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. He trained 3,859 winners of nearly $104 million, and was still actively training before entering the hospital.
''Everyone knows what he meant to this industry,'' 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 1957-1969, and won four training titles at Aqueduct and three at Belmont Park.
''The men and women of the New York Racing Association mourn the passing of Hall of Fame trainer H. Allen Jerkens, not only one of the most revered horsemen of our time, but one of the finest people our industry has ever known,'' New York Racing Association CEO and President Chris Kay said in a statement. ''The Chief leaves behind a lasting legacy both on and off the track.''