A standing-room-only crowd gathered at Gulfstream Park Tuesday, March 24, for a memorial service to honor Hall of Fame horseman Allen Jerkens, who died March 18 at the age of 85.
Organized by owner-trainer Carlo Vaccarezza, who shared Barn 14 on the Gulfstream backstretch with Jerkens, known throughout the industry as 'The Chief,' the 60-minute ceremony took place inside the Sport of Kings Theater.
"He taught us you could live quietly but speak very loudly," master of ceremonies and television personality Caton Bredar said. "He was a giant of a man."
Allen Jerkens Jr., flanked by siblings Steven and Jimmy Jerkens and Julie Schneider, delivered a heartfelt speech that provided a look at the man behind the legendary horseman, widely revered and respected for a 65-year career that included some of the greatest upsets in Thoroughbred racing history.
The ceremony also included a rendition of "Amazing Grace" performed by Jimmy Jerkens' wife, Shirley; and a 2 1/2-minute video tribute from Gulfstream trainers and jockeys capped by a replay of Onion's win over Triple Crown winner Secretariat in the 1973 Whitney Stakes (gr. II) at Saratoga Race Course.
Others who eulogized Jerkens included Jerkens' son-in-law Rocky Schneider; retired Hall of Fame jockey Angel Cordero Jr.; 11-time defending Gulfstream training champion and seven-time Eclipse Award winner Todd Pletcher; Turf writers David Grening and Sean Clancy; and Tom LaPointe, director of chaplaincy programs at Gulfstream Park.
Trainers Chuck Simon and Leah Gyarmati, both former Jerkens assistants before going out on their own, and Jerkens' longtime assistant Fernando Abreu were part of the large crowd that gathered for the service, as well as Martin Panza, senior vice president of racing operations for the New York Racing Association; Jockeys' Guild national manager Terry Meyocks; retired track announcer Tom Durkin, and racing TV personality Charlsie Cantey.
Also among those attending the service were jockeys Edgar Prado and Jose Santos and trainers Leroy Jolley, Carl Nafzger, Nick Zito, and Shug McGaughey, all fellow Hall of Fame horsemen; owners Joseph Shields Jr., a longtime Jerkens client; and Ken and Sarah Ramsey; trainers Rick Violette, Dale Romans, Ian Wilkes, and Jose Garoffalo; and retired jockey Walter Blum.