James A. Jerkens
|James A. Jerkens|
|Born||January 24, 1959
Bay Shore, New York, United States
|Career wins||718+ (ongoing)|
|Major racing wins|
Astarita Stakes (1997, 1999)
Breeders' Cup Mile (2005)
Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (2007)
|Artie Schiller, Corinthian, Sir Greeley, Shaman Ghost, Quality Road|
James A. "Jimmy" Jerkens (born January 24, 1959 in Bay Shore, New York) is an American Thoroughbred horse trainer. His father, U.S. Racing Hall of Fame inductee H. Allen Jerkens, and brother, Steve Jerkens, are also trainers.
Jerkens father, H. Allen Jerkens, was a prominent New-York based trainer whose nickname in the press was "the Giant Killer" as he was best known for training horses who pulled off major upsets. The elder Jerkens, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1975, died in 2015. His first wife and Jimmy Jerkens mother, Ann, died in 1986. The younger Jerkens has three siblings, Steven (also a trainer), Alan, and Julie.
Jerkens started learning horsemanship from his father at the age of 11, working part-time mucking out stalls and acting as a hot walker. In 1973, he was watching from the backstretch at Saratoga when his father's horse Onion upset Secretariat in the Whitney Handicap. In 1977, he graduated from Walt Whitman High School in Huntington Station, New York and became an assistant trainer to his father. In 1997, the elder Jerkens suggested he start his own stable with a few horses from a longtime client.
Jerkens divorced his first wife in 1997, then married his current wife Shirley in July 2008. They were originally high school sweethearts but parted ways after several years. Shirley was also previously married and has two children, Henry and Fredericka. Shirley is a pediatric physical therapist and has been involved with horses for many years.
In 1997, Jerkens struck out on his own with just nine horses in his stable. On September 28, he won his first race with Ninth Inning at Belmont Park. Later that year, he won his first graded stakes, the Astarita, with the same filly. In 1998, he finished third in the Belmont Stakes with Thomas Jo, who also won two stakes races that year. At the 1999-2000 Aqueduct Inner Track meeting, he tied for the trainer's title with 23 wins.
In 2009, Jerkens won the Fountain of Youth Stakes and the Florida Derby with Quality Road, making the colt one of the favorites for the Kentucky Derby. In 2014, he had similar success with Wicked Strong, winner of the Wood Memorial and Jim Dandy Stakes. Later in the summer, he had a rare 1-2 finish in the Travers Stakes with Wicked Strong and winner V.E. Day. His father watched the race on television and later said, "I was screaming at the TV, 'Oh my god, he’s not gonna hang on! They’re gonna catch him!' while my daughter's in front of me jumping up and down. I said, 'Jeez, he got caught right at the end.' She said, 'Yeah, but it’s his horse.'"
Jerkens' star horse in 2015 was Effinex, who won the Suburban and Clark Handicaps and finished second to American Pharoah in the Breeders' Cup Classic. Jerkens had to be patient and resourceful to get the best out of the four-year-old colt, who trained well in the morning but could become unpredictable at race time. He made several changes including a new bit, custom blinkers and using experienced jockey Mike Smith.
In 2016, Jerkens won the Woodward Stakes with Shaman Ghost, having already won the Brooklyn Invitational and Suburban Handicap earlier that year. "I grew up watching my dad run in all these races when I was a little kid and [saw] how important it was – the Brooklyn, the Suburban, the Woodward – because we were New York people and [in] New York racing all our lives," Jerkens said. "It's what we want."
- "NYRA 2016 Media Guide - Trainers" (PDF). New York Racing Association. p. 48. Retrieved 8 September 2016.
- "James Jerkens trainer profile". www.equibase.com. Retrieved 8 September 2016.
- Shapiro, T. Rees. "Allen Jerkens, thoroughbred trainer who defeated champions, dies at 85". Washington Post. Retrieved 8 September 2016.
- Finley, Bill (26 April 2009). "Jimmy Jerkens, Training in Dad's Footprints, Has Chance to Leave His Own". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 September 2016.
- Wilkin, Tim. "For Jimmy Jerkens, Whitney holds special memories". timesunion.com. Retrieved 8 September 2016.
- "James Jerkens Racing". www.jamesjerkensracing.com. Retrieved 8 September 2016.
- Hovdey, Jay. "Hovdey: Jerkens follows in Giant (Killer) footsteps". Daily Racing Form. Retrieved 8 September 2016.
- Johnson, Karen M. "How Jimmy Jerkens uncovered the key to Effinex". Thoroughbred Racing Commentary. Retrieved 8 September 2016.
- Grening, David. "Shaman Ghost justifies decision to run in Woodward". Daily Racing Form. Retrieved 8 September 2016.