The Spitbox

The Master is dead
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Author:  DougA. [ Sat Dec 30, 2017 8:42 pm ]
Post subject:  The Master is dead

One of the few trainers which I have great respect for died Wednesday at 81, Dec.27, 2017, Jack Van Berg. I regret I never knew him personally. As close as I came to him was taking over his emptied stalls at Canterbury Downs during their opening year. He left behind a feed barrel with his name on it. I would have loved to have started out my career with him. Lisa, a groom for him, wrote this:

Jack Van Berg-

I’ve had the absolute PLEASURE of knowing Jack since 1982. I was a groom for him and went on to work at his farm in Goshen, KY. Fairly certain he was Leading trainer that year at Aksarben. Jack wasn’t as much a man as he was a legend and bigger than life - a John Wayne. His Shedrow was run with the precision of a much feared military presence. He ‘informed’ me my horses needed an egg-a-day, so on my lowly wages my horses got their eggs and let me tell you- Jack KNEW what he was talking about because there wasn’t a horse led to the paddock for a race that didn’t shine like a Million bucks.

SHOEING- oh LORD!!! He says he hated holding a horse for a shoer but, let me tell you, that the shoers deserved an award in patience. I could not COUNT the times the rasp was yanked from their hands while jack took over. I’ve seen him whittle their feet in some totally clearly different way and, they would WIN the next time out.

Some people do, some people just are, but Jack just WAS. I'D SAY he had COMMON HORSE SENSE AND HORSE WHISPERING. The FUNNEST thing about being on Jack's team and, by God, it was a Team because you pretty much LIVED at the barn. Anyway, his superstitions-For Example, if You hung a rake or anything that had a piece of straw on it, just get ready because you ARE ABOUT TO HEAR AN EARFUL!! Same as if there would be a 1/4 inch piece of straw in horses tail going out for a mere gallop. He would TURN THEM AWAY to be taken back to barn and GROOMED PROPERLY!! NOPE NOPE. You work there, You do it correctly. He taught me so Much and he truly was a horse whisperer. The meanest horses would snuggle Jack. He knew their language. Once an odd hotwalker decided to toss a mojo bag On top of the barn. When he found out— the entire morning operation GROUND to a halt until he had someone scamper up a Ladder and get rid of that horrible thing.

When Jack was in town, we became automated and completely perfect workers. He scared us and yet we all stayed for LONG HOURS because YOU JUST KNEW you were getting years of wisdom. He is the master. Jack was the FUNNEST, best PRANKSTER AS WELL. There was never a Time where he wasn’t acting up making something funny happen to a friend.

I went to work at his farm in Goshen. He let me care For the magnificent horse, Bold Ego. When he showed up leading him to his stall he said: "LISA- NEVER EVER AND I MEAN NOT ONCE, TURN YOUR BACK ON THIS GUY. HE WILL TEAR YOU UP!!" So about 10 days went by. Bold Ego was SO SWEET, but I remember Jacks words so I never Let my guard down. Not once. Jack returned to town and asked "how’s the big horse?"; and I replied "Jack- I think maybe he’s changed here at farm because he’s super sweet and gentle." Well, he laughed his butt off because Bold Ego was a true pet. Didn’t have a mean bone in him. I’d spent 10 days in sheer horror that this horse would freak out and trample me to death. I’ll always remember his swagger and laugh as he walked off down the Shedrow laughing his butt off about it. Such a prankster.

Anyway- Jack, you are an amazing horsemen and someone I feel so grateful to have learned a lot from. I thought you were too damn tough and too much a legend to ever die, so this is very surreal and heartbreaking. I hope we can put a statue of you somewhere. We need those innovative, horse smart, intelligent eyes watching over us. Take care ole friend and a big thank You for your incredible contribution to our sport. I will miss you.

Lisa Daniels (Cordova)


Author:  DougA. [ Fri Aug 17, 2018 10:10 am ]
Post subject:  Re: The Master is dead

I always took my horses out on the track even in the worse of weather. I figured if they had to race in it, they should bloody well have to at least gallop in it! I have been reading Jack Van Berg's bio of late: He's my kind of horseman!

"We trained 365 days a year. We didn't take off Christmas or thanksgiving or New Year's. There were days in Chicago when it was snowing and miserable and nearly every other trainer on the grounds would walk their horses or maybe jog them in the shedrow for a few days until the weather got better. Not so with the Van Berg stable. Our horses didn't miss a day of exercise. And when the races were run, if it came down to a driving finish as it so often does, we always knew our horses would have that little edge of extra fitness."

I think the Van Berg record proves the value of this philosophy! I regret I never worked for him as a young man.

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