Joseph Shields and Leverett Miller don’t remember the details of their polo matches against Allen Jerkens decades ago.
“He can remember a game that we played in polo from 40 years ago,” Miller said.
“I just remember getting damn near killed by him a couple times,” Shields said. “He was big, we were young and didn’t know what the hell we were doing, and he did.”
When it comes to horses, no one knows more than the Hall of Fame trainer, Shields said, so that’s why he enlisted his friend to train thoroughbreds for him almost 20 years ago.
The publicity-shy Jerkens didn’t show up in the winner’s circle at Saratoga Race Course on Friday, but Shields’ 5-year-old mare Any Limit sure did after running away with the Grade II Honorable Miss at Saratoga Race Course.
After Akronism scratched, Any Limit was the longest shot on the board at 6-1 against four other accomplished stakes winners and the lightly raced Zada Belle, who had won three of four impressively, and was the second choice of the bettors.
Any Limit, coming off a neck victory over Wild Gams in the Grade II First Flight, was much the best, controlling the pace all the way around the track for six furlongs and beating Zada Belle by 53⁄4 lengths.
“Wire-to-wire, that was nice,” Jerkens said. “This was her first win here. It was one of the best fields for the Test when she ran in it [in 2006], and I think she ran on the turf here once.”
Any Limit is a Shields homebred — Miller is his racing and breeding advisor — by Limit Out, who won the Bay Shore and Jerome in 1998.
Shields’ highlight at Saratoga came in 2003, when Passing Shot won the Grade I Personal Ensign, another illustration of Jerkens’ aptitude for horses and ability to get them to run big in big races.
“We couldn’t win an overnight with her, and she won the Personal Ensign, and then went on to win a bunch of races later on,” Shields said. “But they don’t grow up sometimes. The distance, I think, is what he figured out with Passing Shot.”
Any Limit was 0-for-2 at Saratoga, and had not raced at the Spa in two years.
After winning an ungraded stakes at Aqueduct in October 2006, she waded through the Grade II and III ranks, but the First Flight was her first victory in almost a year and a half.
Now, she’s looking at perhaps the Grade I Ballerina later in the meet.
“One thing you know is that
Allen will always do the best for the horse, to the level of what he feels she’s capable of,” Shields said. “Last year, she couldn’t get one.”
In the Honorable Miss, Any Limit led the field through a quarter-mile in 22.16 and the half in 45.00, very close to what she did in the seven-furlong First Flight over a muddy, sealed track at Belmont on July 4.
After that, no one got within a length of her.
“My filly broke good,” jockey Cornelio Velasquez said. “She went over to the lead easy. When I asked her, I still had a lot of horse. She can run.”
“It was shorter, and I think she handled it OK,” Shields said. “She got a very good ride, and she just hung in there very well.
“She got out quick, she’s a good breaker.
“Those are good horses, and I always worry somebody’s going to come up and wear her down or something. But she’s pretty easy, pretty comfortable, and she’s just a very willing, very nice filly. Loves her carrots in the morning, I can tell you that. She gets mad if you don’t give them to her.”
Any Limit will be retired to the breeding shed next year, Shields said.