The first Breeders' Cup races haven't even gone to the post yet, and already there have been happy tears in the Churchill Downs winner's circle.
A 2-year-old colt named Jack Van Berg broke his maiden in the second race on the Breeders' Cup Friday undercard, decisively drawing away from Captain Von Trapp in the stretch. It's no coincidence that the horse, piloted by Jon Court, is trained by Thomas Van Berg. Thomas is the son of Hall of Fame conditioner Jack Van Berg, who died in December 2017.
The equine Jack Van Berg is owned by Mike Waters' Muddy Waters Stables.
“When Dad came back to the Midwest circuit, Mike Puhich and Mike Waters jumped in and backed him and gave him a resurgence of his career,” said Thomas Van Berg after the official photos were taken. “He had a couple great years before he passed. Mike Waters asked Dad, 'I want to name a horse after you sometime. Can I reserve the name?' And Dad said, 'Sure. You'd just better make sure it's a good one.'
“Mike was real close with my dad and he had trouble even discussing the funeral or Dad's passing, but the one thing he got out was, 'Tom, your dad always said he had one more Derby left in him. I didn't know it might be as a horse, but he said he had one left.' That's a storybook ending, if it happens.”
The race was the third career start for the son of To Honor and Serve. He was beaten a head in the WTOBA Lads Stakes at Emerald Downs in mid-August. The equine Jack Van Berg was bred in Kentucky by Haymarket Farm LLC. He was a $28,000 purchase by agent Christina Jelm on the 11th day of the Keeneland September Yearling sale, where he was consigned by Select Sales.
“He's a neat little horse,” said Thomas Van Berg. “He's got some ability. He's a decent colt.
“You know, Mike said, 'If the discussion ever comes up of whether we need to geld him, that's your decision.' And I said, 'No, don't put that on me. I don't want to get struck down by the guy upstairs.”
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