To me, Hall of Fame trainer Jack Van Berg has always seemed like something of a cross between John Wayne and Will Rogers... tough, quietly intelligent, with a twinkle in his eye! So when I saw him sitting on his pony outside his barn at Hollywood Park last week I just had to snap a photo.
Born June 7, 1936 in Columbus, Nebraska, he is perhaps best known for his great success with 1988 Horse of the Year Alysheba. Van Berg joined horse racing's Hall of Fame in 1985, following in the footsteps of his late father, Marion, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame as a trainer in 1970.
Van Berg began working with horses at the age of 13, and he saddled his first winner at 16. In 1976, he became the first trainer in Thoroughbred history to lead the nation both in races won and money won, with 496 victories. He would, of course, go on to garner well over 6,000 wins, as well as an Eclipse Award as trainer in 1984.
On another historical note, Van Berg saddled I Be Casual on Dec. 9, 1999 at Hollywood Park, as jockey Laffit Pincay Jr. tied Bill Shoemaker's record for career riding victories, at 8,833!
Wednesday at Hollywood Park, Van Berg runs Cold Prince in the 3rd race, a $12,500 claimer for 3-year-olds and up, and Nu Power Two in the 8th, a maiden claimer for 3-year-olds and up.