Hall of Fame trainer Jack Van Berg, who trained 1988 Horse of the Year Alysheba, died Wednesday morning after a long battle with cancer, according to reports in the Daily Racing Form and BloodHorse. He was 81.
Van Berg, a Nebraska native, trained 1987 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Alysheba. The talented colt was champion 3-year-old male that season, and went on to earn Horse of the Year and champion older male honors in 1988.
Van Berg also trained Gate Dancer, winner of the 1984 Preakness.
Van Berg was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1985. His father, Marion, was inducted in 1970.
Van Berg was a mentor to trainers such as Bill Mott, Frankie Brothers, Loren Rettele and many others. Van Berg gave countless young people “a leg-up” in the horse racing industry and also helped to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for charitable causes via his considerable talent as an auctioneer.
Earlier this year, Van Berg was the Dawn at Oaklawn guest with Nancy Holthus, recounting some of the highlights of his career.
A winner of 6,457 races, Van Berg is currently ranked Santa Anita's 22nd all-time stakes winning trainer with 31 added money triumphs, he defeated his good friend and fellow Hall of Famer Charlie Whittingham in what was a battle of Derby winners in 1988, as Alysheba avenged a loss in the Breeders' Cup Classic five months earlier by defeating Ferdinand by a half length in the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap.
Van Berg is survived by a son, trainer, Tom Van Berg, and three daughters, Tori, Tammy and Traci. He was predeceased earlier this year by another son, trainer Tim Van Berg.
Funeral services are pending.
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