The past two or three weeks around here have displayed a drought of prominent enough people who merit inclusion on this blog when they died. There were some lesser-known actors and musicians who died, a few businessmen who were allegedly famous but I had never heard of, and a sprinkling of rather obscure sports figures.
There is one sports figure who may not be that well-known to younger people, but the man who was nicknamed "The Giant Killer," racing hall of fame trainer Allen Jerkins, has died. He was 85 years old.
Secretariat fans remember Jerkins for having trained two horses who defeated Secretariat in a pair of upsets following his storied sweep of the 1973 Triple Crown. Not to take anything from Jerkins' ability to condition horses, but the fact remains he got a lucky break when his horse Onion defeated Big Red in the Whitney Stakes because the champ had come down with a virus and should have been scratched. Another horse he trained, Prove Out, also defeated the great horse in the Woodward because Secretariat was put in as a last-minute replacement when trainer Lucien Laurin scratched Riva Ridge because of the sloppy track.
In other words, Jerkins got damned lucky because Laurin messed up. Because of Laurin's mistakes, Jerkins got the Eclipse Award for best trainer of 1973, an award that should have gone to Laurin.
Years earlier, Jerkins pulled a major upset when his horse Beau Purple defeated another racing great, five-time Horse of the Year Kelso. I should say upsets, for this horse beat Kelso three times.
Other horses he trained included Devil His Due and Sky Beauty.
More details are at this NYT link.