Although Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens remains hospitalized at Aventura Hospital, adjacent to Gulfstream Park, his wife Elisabeth reports that he is gradually improving from a severe pancreatic infection.
"We're certainly over the worst of it," she said from her Hallandale, Fla. home, "although he will remain in intensive care for at least another week and then be out of action for a while afterwards. The pancreas infection damaged all the vital organs, and his lungs especially will take quite a while to heal."
The 71-year-old was admitted on Dec. 23 after experiencing severe stomach pains, and his wife described the dire circumstances of that day. "For about five or six hours we really thought we were going to lose him," she recalled. "The doctors told me that when his blood pressure dropped so quickly, it would have killed him if his heart wasn't so strong,"
Jerkens remained on ventilator-assisted breathing and under significant sedation. "He's a very difficult patient," Elisabeth Jerkens admitted, "He tried to pull everything out."
In his absence, son James Jerkens will travel to Gulfstream from his New York base "a couple of times a week" to oversee the training, and Elisabeth was confident that his stable would continue to operate well because of James' familiarity with his father's methods.
The elder Jerkens had his first winner nearly 50 years ago. He earned his reputation as a giant killer in the early 1960s.
His Beau Purple upset the great Kelso three times in 1962-63. Onion and then Prove Out upset 1973 Triple Crown winner Secretariat. In 1998, his Wagon Limit stunned Skip Away in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.
In 1975, Jerkens was the youngest person at the time to be elected to the Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. He has won more than 200 stakes races.