Veteran New York trainer Jimmy Jerkens, 64, whose stable has been slumping in recent years, has agreed to train in Saudi Arabia for Prince Faisal bin Khalid Al Saud. Jerkens said he will likely start his new job in Saudi Arabia in mid-May.
The Daily Racing Form’s David Grening was first with the story.
Jerkens, the son of Hall of Famer Allen Jerkens, has been around the New York tracks for nearly 50 years. After working for his father as an assistant, he went out on his own in 1997. By 2000, he had established himself as a steady winner on the New York circuit who had the type of stock that could compete in stakes. He won 59 races in 2000, good for a 28 percent winning rate, and won six stakes. His numbers stayed relatively stable and in 2018 he won 38 races with stable earnings of $2,922,392. But his fortunes declined every year thereafter and in 2022 he won just four races and had earnings of $365,995 .
“We’ve just been just existing the last three or four years,” he said. “It got to where I was losing money. This is a hard thing to do, seven days a week, when you’re going nowhere.”
Jerkens trained 11 different horses that won Grade I races, including Quality Road (Elusive Quality). He won the GI Florida Derby with Quality Road, who was eventually turned over to trainer Todd Pletcher. Some of his other major wins came in the GI Woodward S., a race he won twice, the GI Santa Anita H., the Queen’s Plate, the GI Metropolitan H., the GI Breeders’ Cup Mile and the GI Travers S.
“I never had a big stable but I was always lucky to get a lot of good ones,” Jerkens said.
He blames himself for his career heading off in the wrong direction.
“It’s probably my fault,” he said. “The game started changing and I probably wasn’t proactive enough in keeping the stable going. I got entrenched in my father’s era. Back then you could get a reputation of being thorough and doing a good job and you could sit back and the horses would come to you. You did the best you could. It’s a different game now. You have to be proactive, you have to go to sales, you have to be on social media. I was never built like that. I never adapted and I’m paying the price.”
Jerkens said it was jockey agent Ron Anderson who recommended him to Prince Faisal. Jerkens left for Saudi Arabia on April 9 and spent five days there meeting with the Prince and his advisors.
“I wasn’t interested at first but the more I thought about it it seemed to be an opportunity to get some nice stock to train and not have to worry about the bills and everything else.” he said. “You go over there and all you have to worry about is the training. You get your percentage, you can get bonuses, you can accomplish some nice things with some nice horses. So I bit the bullet and decided to go.
“Everyone I talked to, the Prince, his advisors, they couldn’t have been any nicer. They made me feel comfortable, especially the Prince. He’s got the warmest, kindest face you could imagine. You felt really at ease around him.”
Jerkens has signed a two-year contract and expects to have about 50 horses under his care. He added that the possibility of Prince Faisal opening a stable in the U.S. has been discussed and, if that happens, Jerkens would likely return to the U.S. to train them.
“That’s the most appealing part of this.” he said. “It would be wonderful to be able to do that.”
He said he still has a lot to learn about his new horses, but, so far, he has been impressed.
“The pedigrees are good and they look the part,” he said. “I was really impressed with their condition. They looked really good and had good muscle tone. I didn’t know what to expect when they started pulling them out. But I was really impressed with how they looked.”
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