Saratoga’s Grade 1 King’s Bishop renamed in honor of late Hall of Fame trainer H. Allen Jerkens
by Heather Pettinger
The New York Racing Association is proud to announce that the Grade 1 King’s Bishop at historic Saratoga Race Course, New York’s premier summer race for 3-year-old sprinters, will be renamed in honor of H. Allen Jerkens, recognizing the legendary late trainer’s immeasurable contributions to the sport of horse racing.
The $500,000 H. Allen Jerkens Memorial, inaugurated as the King’s Bishop in 1984 and named for one of Jerkens’ many stakes winners, will be run on Travers Day, August 26, as one of six Grade 1 races contested on Saratoga’s centerpiece live racing program.
Jerkens, known affectionately in the horse racing community as “The Chief,” counted King’s Bishop among his hundreds of stakes winners through a nearly 65-year career. Under Jerkens’ care, King’s Bishop set a track record in the seven-furlong Carter and won the Fall Highweight in 1973 for Allaire du Pont’s Bohemia Stable.
"Allen Jerkens is a name that is synonymous with all that is great about racing at New York Racing Association tracks," said NYRA President and CEO Chris Kay. "It is an honor for NYRA to be able to pay tribute to his accomplishments and contributions with the renaming of the King's Bishop to the H. Allen Jerkens Memorial. The Jerkens family, as well as his friends and countless fans, can look forward to celebrating the Chief's legacy with the running of the Grade 1 Allen Jerkens each summer at Saratoga."
After taking out his trainer’s license in 1950, Jerkens fashioned a stellar career that was punctuated by some of the biggest upsets in racing history, including two over 1973 Triple Crown winner Secretariat, with Prove Out in the Woodward at Belmont Park and with Onion in the Whitney at Saratoga.
Those famous exploits solidified his reputation as “the Giant Killer,” and he was named Outstanding Trainer in 1973. Two years later, he became the youngest trainer to be inducted into the National Racing Hall of Fame at age 45.
Jerkens, for whom the coveted Saratoga training title is named, amassed more than a dozen training titles on the NYRA circuit, including four at Saratoga, where he dominated from 1971-73 and tied for the title in 1978. In 2014, Jerkens was honored in the second annual “Red Jacket” Ceremony at the Spa, and was inducted into Saratoga’s “Walk of Fame.”
“He was a big part of New York racing for 50-plus years, so it’s a big deal,” said Allen’s son, trainer Jimmy Jerkens. “He’s certainly deserving of it, and if they were going to rename a race, it would make sense that they use the King’s Bishop because he trained the horse. T.J. Kelly had him as a 3-year-old and Mrs. du Pont, who owned Kelso, bought him and we got him after that, so we had him as a 4-year-old and a 5-year-old and he was a nice horse.
"It means a lot," he added. "He'd probably be blushing right now."
Jerkens trained 3,859 winners for nearly $104 million in earnings at the time of his passing on March 18, 2015 at the age of 85, with many of his biggest victories coming in New York, and at Saratoga in particular. Among his notable Spa runners are Hall of Famer Sky Beauty, who won the Adirondack, Alabama, and Go for Wand in three consecutive summers from 1992-94 en route to being named Champion Older Mare in 1994; 1995 Ballerina winner Classy Mirage; Kelly Kip, who won the 1996 Sanford and 1998 A Phenomenon Handicap, now the Alfred G. Vanderbilt; and November Snow and Society Selection, winners of the Test and Alabama in 1992 and 2004, respectively.