all in Legends

Some racehorses peak at an early age, flashing brilliance right from the start. Others require more time to reach their best form, maturing slowly over the course of several years.

The New York road to the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve continues this Saturday, with the 141st renewal of the $250,000 Grade 3 Withers Stakes. Named after prominent 19th-century owner David Withers, the race was held for the first time in 1874 at Jerome Park. It has been held at several different tracks, but has been run at Aqueduct since 1997.

Allen Jerkens took out his trainer’s license as soon as he turned 21, and he only waited that long because his father forbid him to do so any sooner. He enjoyed solid success almost from the very beginning and won his first stakes race in 1955 with a horse named War Command, whom Jerkens had claimed for $8,000. Seven years later, he agreed to become the private trainer for Jack Dreyfus Jr.’s Hobeau Farm. Though Hobeau Farm didn’t always deal in the most fashionable of pedigrees, it did provide Jerkens with volume. And Jerkens certainly had a knack for getting the most out of his horses.

One of the great obstacles John Velazquez faced presented itself long before his first mount.

His mother, Margarita, viewed her son as a potential attorney or something along those lines. She vehemently objected when he told her of his desire to become a jockey, aware as she was of the inherent risks. And she was a force to be reckoned with.

On Jan. 30, Gulfstream Park in Florida will host the $200,000 Holy Bull Stakes, a major prep race on the road to the Kentucky Derby. It’s only fitting that the Holy Bull should be a race of such significance, for Holy Bull was undoubtedly one of the most brilliant horses we have seen in the last 30 years.

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