Sean Clancy's March 2 blog entry, "Quiet at the Jerkens barn," was the third most read piece on this website in 2015 and it put into words exactly how it feels to step into a familiar place and something to feel completely out of place all at the same time.
Moments like the ones Sean described were few and far between; downright rare. Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens, basically an omnipresent figure on the backstretch at Gulfstream Park in the winter, fell ill in late February and would be gone before mid-March.
Sean was in Florida and he did what he often did when he was in town, went looking for his hero.
"Here I was at Gulfstream Park, looking for the most every-day horseman I've ever known and he wasn't here. On a Sunday morning, his barn was quiet. Finally, I saw Bill Higgins, who's been around Jerkens' barn since 1982 when Jerkens wanted to buy a pony off him and Higgins wound up galloping for the Hall of Famer.
"I walked along the macadam, in front of his long shedrow, seeing a few familiar exercise riders, hotwalkers and a few burly bay horses who could only belong to Jerkens. At least seeing saddle towels with the family J on them made it seem more normal.
"I said good morning to Higgins and we talked for a few minutes. Still no sign of Jerkens or Abreu, who was going to receive the text if I sent it. Wanting to ask Higgins, "Where the hell is everybody?" but somehow knowing I shouldn't, I leaned on the corner of the barn and made small talk.
"I hate small talk.
"Finally, Higgins said, 'You know the Chief's in the hospital?' "
Check out No. 3 on our 15 for 2015 list of popular stories
Other stories in the 15 for 2015
No. 10: Lexington's hot ticket
No. 11: Rage for the sake of the sport
No. 12: Funerals and Field Trips
No. 13: The ultimate workhorse
No. 14: Horse racing in Georgia?