V E Day and Wicked Strong in the Travers Stakes.
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V E Day and Wicked Strong in the Travers Stakes.
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Skip Dickstein

Jerkens Still Pinching Himself After Travers

Trainer says he watched replay of V. E. Day nipping Wicked Strong 'a thousand times'.

The morning after his horses produced a rare 1-2 finish in the $1.25 million Travers (gr. I) Aug. 23, trainer Jimmy Jerkens continued to be amazed by his good fortune.

In two editions of the Travers, Jerkens has emerged with two victories and one second-place finish with three horses. Sunday morning, the 55-year-old trainer and his wife, Shirley, sat side-by-side on a bale of hay inside his barn and reflected on 19-1 shot V. E. Day  nosing out his more celebrated stablemate, Wicked Strong .

"I must have watched the replay a thousand times in the Champagne Room," said Jerkens who won the 2010 Mid-Summer Derby with Afleet Express. "I'm happy they both pulled up good. It sure was something. It seemed like the last two strides, (V. E. Day) really lengthened his stride and reached out to win."

Like Afleet Express, V. E. Day's victory came by a nose with jockey Javier Castellano aboard. Unlike 2010, however, Jerkens' father, Hall of Famer H. Allen Jerkens, was not in attendance. The elder Jerkens watched the race from his home near Gulfstream Park in Florida, where he is training.

"My sister, Julie, came down from Melbourne to watch the race with him," said Jerkens. "She told me at the end of the race, she was jumping up and down and yelling and screaming, and my dad looked at her and said, 'What are you doing? He lost!' and Julie said, 'No, he won! He won with the other horse!' I would have loved to have seen that scene."

Jerkens said he wasn't conflicted by having two horses in the same race, although he expressed pangs that one of them had to lose.

"You don't favor one horse over the otherI guess it's like your kids, you don't favor one over the other," he said. "We're still a small outfit, so we spent a lot of time with each of the horses. We're not as mechanical as some of the bigger outfits."

Jerkens said he had no plans for either V. E. Day or Wicked Strong, although the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) Sept. 27 at Belmont Park is an option for both.

"I really haven't thought about what's next or anything like that," he said.

Previously overlooked in favor of the multiple graded stakes winning Wicked Strong, V. E. Day has now won four straight races for owner  Magalen O. Bryant. On July 26, the 3-year-old son of English Channel  came from last to first to win the Curlin and earn a shot in the Travers. Prior to that, he broke his maiden facing older horses May 10 in an off-the-turf race, and then won an allowance on the grass July 2, both at Belmont Park.

"He's been very nice to ride and gallophe's very well-behaved," said Shirley Jerkens, who exercises some horses for her husband. "He's strong, but strong in a good way."

Bred in Kentucky by Bluegrass Hall out of the Deputy Minister mare California Sunset, V. E. Day has now won four of six starts with one second. The rich Travers payday, worth $670,000 to his connections, boosted the chestnut colt's earnings to $829,010.