I was saddened to read a few days ago of the death of Hall of Fame trainer H. Allen Jerkens. Of all the upsets he engineered in his long and illustrative career, the 1973 Woodward Stakes stands out in my mind. It was one of my favorite races of all time.
I was a freshman at Kenyon College (Gambier, Ohio) in late September of 1973. I moseyed over to the commons late one Saturday afternoon to watch this race on television. There I was joined by Tim Blowhard (not his real name, but the name says it all; you know the type). We both lived in the same dorm (Norton Zoo) freshman year and eventually pledged to the same frat (Assholes, Derelicts, and Perverts).
TB turned out to be a BIG fan of Secretariat. Me, not so much. Secretariat was 2-5 or 3-10 (can’t remember which) that day in the 1973 Woodward. Among his foes was Prove Out, a son of Graustark (of whom I was somewhat fond) trained by H. Allen Jerkens.
I opined that Secretariat was an underlay at the odds. TB disagreed. The usual negotiations followed. I offered to book him at those odds. He demurred, saying “I don’t want to take your money” or some such bullshit.
Prove Out absolutely loved the sloppy going that day. The distance (a mile and a half) was right up his alley as well. He won by four lengths over an undertrained Secretariat. TB stormed off. I laughed and giggled.
“Too bad he didn’t take that wager,” I heard a voice behind me.
“Ah, he’s the kind of asshole who wouldn’t have paid up anyway,” I replied before even checking out the owner of this voice.
The owner of this voice turned out to be a reasonably attractive female. She was skinny as a rake and not very well endowed on top, but I kinda like them that way. “More than a mouthful is too much.”
We watched the recap of the race and chatted for a bit. Turned out her name was Amy, and she was a senior from Newton, Massa-Two-Shits. We went downstairs to dinner together and continued babbling on racing topics.
If this were a fairy tale, we fell in love and eventually got married and lived happily ever after, progeny and all. Life is usually a bit more complicated than fairy tales. No such fairy tale ensued.
It was the beginning of a somewhat odd friendship though. Odd mainly because she was a senior and I was a lowly freshman.
The thing that fueled the friendship was the nags of course. Turned out that she was a Bland-Horse subscriber. I preferred the Thoroughbred Rectum myself. So naturally we had to meet once a week and exchange magazines and opinions about the contents thereof. As well as the relative merits and deficits of the two magazines. There were not many people around the campus at that time (or any other time) who were as intensely interested in the nags as we were. Maybe it was only ONE THING we had in common, but it was the MOST IMPORTANT thing.
This did not lead to any ROMANCE, however. She made her opinion on that pretty clear from the start. She was a senior. I was a freshman. She was Jewish. I was Catholic. And never the twain shall meet (nor kiss nor whatever comes after that). I accepted her terms of friendship.
Come spring of the next year (1974) she started dragging me out to the tennis court with her. She was a decent player (varsity at a small high school). I had never played before at all. She did not exactly offer me any instructions. She explained the rules. She hit a ball at me. I tried to hit it back. It took me awhile to be able to hit it back with any consistency at all.
Of course she beat me mercilessly the first few times we played (and she insisted on keeping score). But I gradually got better. I never did develop a backhand that spring, but I was young and could still run like a deer, and so I ran around the court and hit everything with my forehand.
I gradually got better. The scores got closer. She had to expend more energy to beat me. I actually beat her the last time we played that spring (one set only; one set was usually all we could manage; and this set I won took a LONG time to be resolved).
It was near the end of the school year. She was graduating in a week or two. I had to go home for the summer before graduation. We went to several parties together that night (after I finally beat her at tennis). She got a little more inebriated than usual (I got WASTED as usual).
To make a long story short, she relieved me of my virginity that night. I was never much of a lady’s man. It came as pretty much a surprise to me. I was not complaining. I hope she had no cause for complaint either.
She graduated. I went home to Cincinnati for the summer. I wrote her a few times and vice versa. The last I heard she was getting married. I sent her a subscription to the Thoroughbred Rectum as a wedding present.
This story has come a long way from the death of H. Allen Jerkens. He was renowned for all the major upsets that he pulled (though he was a GREAT trainer even without all those upsets).
But when I think of H. Allen Jerkens, I think about Prove Out and Secretariat in the 1973 Woodward. And about the odd friendship of Amy and Davey in the fall of 1973 and spring of 1974.