‘Profound Moment’ Gives Trainer Tom Van Berg First Winner Since Father’s Passing

by | 01.20.2018 | 3:59pm
Jack Van Berg at Hollywood Park

Shortly before trainer Tom Van Berg would saddle his first starter in a decade Jan. 12 at Oaklawn, paddock analyst Nancy Holthus was a few feet away preparing to deliver insight on the fifth race, a third-level allowance/optional claiming sprint for older fillies and mares.

What unfolded next was truly a profound moment.

Van Berg and Holthus – separated by a wooden partition in stalls 5 and 12 – inched toward the back of the compartments and pressed a hand against the plexiglass stripped near its top, a show of love for the man who would watch this race from the heavens.

The man, of course, was Hall of Fame trainer Jack Van Berg, father of Tom, trusted friend of Nancy and one of most iconic figures in Thoroughbred history.

The horse was Profound Moment, who represented the first starter for Team Van Berg since Jack's death Dec. 27 in Little Rock, Ark., at the age of 81.

Holthus had known Van Berg for more than 20 years, helped plan his funeral and spoke at his celebration of life ceremony Jan. 8 at the Hot Springs Convention Center.

“Just seeing that horse walk in the paddock with the purple and gold blanket, my heart wound up in my throat,” Holthus said. “Tom was literally saddling behind me, and I kind of turned around and put my hand on the glass and just kind of started tearing up. He came over and put his hand on the glass. It was just one of those moments where we were kind of telling each other, you know, Jack's here.”

Many assembled for a winner's circle photo following that fifth race pointed to the sky to recognize the aptly named Profound Moment's front-running one-length victory under Alex Birzer.

“Unbelievable,” said Tom Van Berg, who hadn't started a horse since Jan. 1, 2008. “I think that was 100 percent the big guy above still working. He carried her the last eighth of a mile home.”

Tom Van Berg, 48, won the $100,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) with Sonic West at the 2004 Oaklawn meeting, but quit training four years later to help raise a family. When his father's health began declining last summer, Van Berg gradually moved back into a position he held from 1999-2008, when he won 158 races as a trainer of record.

Approximately 30 horses at Oaklawn, most previously with his father, are now under Tom Van Berg's care.

Regarding Profound Moment (2 for 2 at the 2017 Oaklawn meeting for Jack Van Berg), Tom Van Berg said there were no nerves – until he saw a misty-eyed Holthus in the other stall.

“It was just kind of that, ‘He's here,' '' Holthus said of Jack Van Berg, Oaklawn's leading trainer in 1983 and 1984.

  • Gotchagold

    May Mr Van Berg have an good time watching his son and their horses run into the winner’s circle in the coming years!

  • nancybb

    That really is a profound moment. I still have to smile when I remember Mr. Van Berg characterizing Gate Dancer as ‘looking like Bugs Bunny coming down the stretch.’

  • lastromntribune

    JVB one of the GIANTS the game has lost.

  • Always Curious

    I would take Profound Moment’s victory as a sign from above. Carry on!

  • R.A.C.E. Fund, Inc.

    Congratulations to Tom Van Berg and his victory and what an appropriate name Profound Moment. JVB will always be present. Am sure he is standing at the rail with all of the other racetrackers at Heaven Downs.

  • Monrovia Damon

    You can’t write a script about that because no one would believe it. So neat

  • Helen shelley

    I’ve always loved Jack with his generosity and willingness to help others and give Sage advice to us beginners even though we had Arabians

  • whirlaway

    This is an amazing moment and Profound Moment was the horse. A spiritual sign from above.
    Racing fans and Jack Van Berg’s loved one will miss him for years to come.

  • Delrene from Carlsbad, Ca

    A really profound moment. Many more for Tom van Berg.

  • Corey larsen

    I exercised horses for Jack and tom was his assistant at aksarben1993 most certainly one of my highlight of my career. Both are in the epitome of a professional horsemen at the highest level, I feel truly blessed to have stood in the same shed row and be part of something special thank you both for that opportunity, I’m Tom Vanbergs biggest fan. good luck to everyone involved.

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