Jimmy Jerkens learned how to train from a master, his father, the late Hall of Famer Allen Jerkens. Patience was a byword for “The Chief,” who never jumped to conclusions off of one race.
His son doesn’t do that, either, even with an undefeated 3-year-old colt who just earned his second graded-stakes trophy. After Unified won his first distance race, the Grade II, 1 1⁄8-mile Peter Pan on Saturday, Jerkens was asked if he would consider running him in the 1 1⁄2-mile Belmont Stakes on June 11.
“I don’t know,” he said. “A lot of horses would have to fall by the wayside for that to happen. But you’d be an idiot nowadays to rule anything out, because things change overnight.”
The time was quick, 1:47.14, which Jerkens downplayed. “The track was fast,” he said. “A lot of mediocre horses were running fast times.”
More important was that the 1-2 favorite’s advantage over runner-up Governor Malibu went from three lengths at the eighth pole to three-quarters of a length at the wire.
“I thought I had it won,” Jose Ortiz said, “but the last couple of jumps he felt the other horse and [finished] very good.”
Ortiz was diplomatic when asked if he thought his 3-for-3 mount should try going another three-eighths of a mile in “The Test of the Champion.”
“I leave that to Jimmy and the owners,” Ortiz said, smiling. “If they want to go to the Belmont, I’ll be there to ride him. He’s a nice horse.’’
Unified earned $120,000, raising his total to $324,000 for Centennial Farms. Going 12 furlongs in his fourth start, only four months from his debut, might be a bit much for a colt who looks like a top sprinter-miler.
“The Belmont?” Jerkens said. “It’s improbable but not impossible.’’
Notes & quotes: Wake Forest ($6.30) closed like a demon for John Velazquez to take the Grade I, 1 3⁄8-mile Man o’ War on turf by three-quarters of a length over Money Multiplier . . . Cavorting ($7.80) and Javier Castellano beat 4-5 favorite Carrumba by five lengths in the Grade II Ruffian. The mile time was a snappy 1:34.05 . . . Shagaf, who was pulled up in the Kentucky Derby stretch, had surgery Thursday to remove bone chips from his left knee and left front ankle, Shadwell Stable general manager Rick Nichols said. The colt, trained by Chad Brown, is likely to be sidelined until next year.