(Edited press release)
Hall of Fame trainer H. Allen Jerkens’ first order of business after being released the morning of Nov. 12 from Parker Jewish Institute for Health Care and Rehabilitation Center was to visit his barn at Belmont Park.
“He came home, and said, ‘I’d like to see the horses,’” said his wife, Elizabeth. “We drove him to the barn and he sat on the bench outside, and they brought out every single one of the horses for him.”
Jerkens, 79, was admitted to Long Island Jewish Hospital in New Hyde Park last month with shortness of breath, then underwent surgery to repair two heart valves Oct. 20 and had a pacemaker installed eight days later. Although he plans on visiting his barn regularly, it will be some time before he ventures out aboard his stable pony, Circus.
“They don’t really recommend it, because of the pacemaker,” said Allen Jerkens. “We’ll have to figure out something.”
Although he did not get a racing channel in his room, Jerkens met daily with assistant trainer Fernando Abreu, and has been following his horses closely.
On Nov. 8, Whirling Agatha gave Jerkens his first winner of the Aqueduct meet, closing from last to win the first race by 4 1/4 lengths.
It was Jerkens’ first victory since Different Drummer won the second race at Belmont Oct. 24. His other winner during the fall meet was Merchant Marine, who won the Devil Diver Stakes Sept. 7.
“We haven’t been setting the world on fire,” said Jerkens. “Even at Saratoga, we won only a few races.”
Among those winners were Joseph Shields’ Any Limit, who won the Aug. 1 Honorable Miss Handicap (gr. II). The 5-year-old mare is being pointed toward the Top Flight Handicap (gr. II) at Aqueduct Nov. 28.
Shortly after Thanksgiving, Jerkens and his wife Elizabeth plan to head, as usual, to Florida for the winter. While racing doesn’t begin at Gulfstream Park until the New Year, Jerkens plans on running at least some at Calder Race Course in December.
“The purses may be a little bigger at Gulfstream, but you get 12-horse fields,” said Jerkens.“At Calder, you’re running against six or seven.”