The Associated Press V.E. Day (4), with jockey Javier Castellano up, moves past Wicked Strong (7), with jockey Rajiv Maragh up, to win Saturday's Travers Stakes at Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs.
SARATOGA SPRINGS -- In two editions of the Grade 1 Travers, trainer Jimmy Jerkens has emerged with two victories and one second-place finish with three horses, for an in-the-money percentage of 100 percent. Sunday morning, the 55-year-old trainer and his wife, Shirley, sat side-by-side on a bale of hay inside his barn and reflected on long shot V. E. Day's narrow victory over his more celebrated stablemate, Wicked Strong.
"I must have watched the replay a thousand times in the Champagne Room," said Jerkens who won the 2010 Mid-Summer Derby with Afleet Express. "I'm happy they both pulled up good. It sure was something. It seemed like the last two strides, he really lengthened his stride and reached out to win."
Like Afleet Express, V. E. Day's victory came by a nose and underneath jockey Javier Castellano. Unlike 2010, however, Jerkens' father, Hall of Famer H. Allen Jerkens, was not in attendance, having watched the race from his home near Gulfstream Park in Florida, where he is training.
"My sister, Julie, came down from Melbourne to watch the race with him," said Jerkens. "She told me at the end of the race, she was jumping up and down and yelling and screaming, and my dad looked at her and said, 'What are you doing? He lost!' and Julie said, 'No, he won! He won with the other horse!' I would have loved to have seen that scene."
Jerkens said he wasn't conflicted by having two horses in the same race, although he expressed pangs that one of them had to lose.
"You don't favor one horse over the other - I guess it's like your kids, you don't favor one over the other," said Jerkens. "We're still a small outfit, so we spent a lot of time with each of the horses. We're not as mechanical as some of the bigger outfits."
Previously overlooked in favor of the multiple graded stakes winning Wicked Strong, V. E. Day has now won four straight races. On July 26, he came from last to first to win the Curlin and earn a shot in the Travers; prior to that, he broke his maiden facing older horses on May 10 in an off-the-turf race and then won an allowance on the grass on July 2, both at Belmont Park.
"He's been very nice to ride and gallop - he's very well-behaved," said Shirley Jerkens, who exercises some horses for her husband. "He's strong, but strong in a good way."
Jerkens said he had no plans for either V. E. Day or Wicked Strong, although the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup on TVG Super Saturday, September 27, at Belmont Park is an option for both.
"I really haven't thought about what's next or anything like that," he said.
-- Staff report