(Edited New York Racing Association press release)
The Travers Stakes (gr. I) appeared to have taken more out of trainer Jimmy Jerkens than his colt Afleet Express, who prevailed by a nose over Fly Down in the “Midsummer Derby” Aug. 28 at Saratoga in New York.
“I was tired,” said Jerkens, moments before saddling Luxury Appeal to a second-place finish in Saratoga’s third race Aug. 29. “I was knocked out. I slept pretty good.”
Jerkens said Afleet Express exited the race in good shape, but he and the colt’s owners – Gainesway Stable and Martin L. Cherry – have yet to discuss where the 3-year-old son of Afleet Alex might make his next start.
“They didn’t feel like talking about it yet, either,” said Jerkens.
Jerkens had high expectations for Afleet Express going into the race, but that didn’t take any of the awe away from the horseman’s first Travers victory.
“I was hoping I wouldn’t wake up and learn it was all a dream,” said Jerkens. “It was a big thrill for all us, the whole crew. It’s very satisfying. That’s why we work seven days a week, 365 days a year, so that once in a while something like that will happen.”
Perhaps the only person as excited as trainer Jimmy Jerkens about Afleet Express’s Travers victory was his Hall of Fame trainer father, Allen Jerkens, who said it was the next-best-thing to winning it himself.
“I watched it at home, and I saw him at the restaurant later on,” said Jerkens, 80. “It was a close finish, but I thought he had it. Like they say, it was a good horse, well-trained and well-ridden.”
The elder Jerkens, for whom the leading trainer award has been named at Saratoga, has saddled five starters in the “Midsummer Derby,” with his best showing a second-place finish in the 1992 edition with Devil His Due.