History keeps our country moving. Tales of our nation’s beginning are told in schools to ensure that children understand where our country came from, and in turn appreciate how far we’ve come. Museums on topics from automobiles to vintage fans decorate towns and cities everywhere. History is important in sports too, allowing older fans to relive important moments and letting new fans learn of those that shaped the sport they love.
Sharing the history of horse racing is an imperative part of keeping it alive in the United States. This is why I believe that Born To Rein is great for the sport.
Born To Rein was created by Jody Lamp and Melody Dobson. Together they founded American Doorstop Project with a mission of telling the untold and forgotten stories of American Agriculture and authored the book “A History of Nebraska Agriculture: A Life Worth Living”. "Born To Rein expounds on a story that was featured in the book and is a spin-off to continue the untold and forgotten connection about Nebraska’s role in the thoroughbred horse training and breeding, and national horse racing industries,” Lamp explained. “A documentary film format was chosen to capture the oral history of nationally known horse trainers and industry professional who credit their success to Nebraska natives John A. Nerud of Minatare, and the father-and-son team of Marion and Jack Van Berg of Aurora/Columbus”. The documentary especially focuses on three Nebraska natives: John A. Nerud and the father-son team Marion and Jack Van Berg. The story of Marion and Jack Van Berg is well known to Nebraskan natives, but few know the story of John Nerud, despite his huge importance in the sport of horse racing. Because of this, Jody Lamp and Melody Dobson are keen on telling his story.
“I think Mr. Steve Haskin, who knew Nerud personally as a correspondent for Blood-Horse Publications for more than 50 years, said it best: ‘No history of Nebraska and the most notable people it has produced would be complete without the inclusion of John Nerud of Minatare’”.
I asked Jody Lamp why she is so interested and intrigued by John A. Nerud, she asked us to create an image of him in our mind and feel what he must have been feeling when he was alive.
“Imagine being six years old and riding horses around western Nebraska the year that America’s first Triple Crown winner, Sir Barton, won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes in 1919,” Lamp described. “Then imagine…96 years later…at the age of 102 years old…reaching the pinnacle of success in the thoroughbred horse industry as John Nerud had, that the breeding you had personally created as the head of operations at Tartan Farm in Florida is demonstrated in the breeding of America's 12th Triple Crown Winner, American Pharoah”.
Nerud was involved with horse racing for most of his life. He became a jockey when he was a teenager and later in life became a jockey agent and trainer. He also partnered with Scotch Tape inventor William McKnight to form a Thoroughbred breeding farm that helped to put Ocala, Florida on the horse racing industry’s map. He also helped create the Breeders’ Cup.
Jody Lamp also had a lot to say about Marion and Jack Van Berg. Marion Van Berg was born and raised on a farm near Aurora, NE. He moved his family to Columbus, NE during The Great Depression and got involved in horse racing in 1937.
“Marion would become the ‘King of Claimers’ and earn himself a spot as the nation’s leading owners in racing victories 14 times,” Lamp explained. “Marion was the first Nebraskan inducted into the Nebraska Horse Racing Hall of fame, and the first Nebraskan, ever to be inducted into the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame in 1970”.
Jack Van Berg was also a record setter in the industry. He exploded in the horse racing world in the 1980s when his horse, Gate Dancer, won the 1984 Preakness Stakes and finished third in the inaugural 1984 Breeders’ Cup Classic. Jack also trained Alysheba, 1987’s Triple Crown hopeful. Jack Van Berg was given the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Trainer in 1984 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame the following year.
[Video: Jack Van Berg's Gate Dancer in the inaugural Breeders' Cup Classic, which John Nerud helped form]
“We had visited with Jack on the phone several times as we were raising the funds for the film. Unfortunately, Jack passed away on Dec. 27, 2017 at age 81, before we could get to him in time for an interview,” Lamp said. “Jack Van Berg still remains the #4 most winning trainer in the history of thoroughbred racing. His son, Tom Van Berg, also born in Columbus, but now residing in Louisville, Ky., continues the legacy of the Van Berg Racing Stables”.
The film also touches on the life of Sir Barton, American horse racing’s first Triple Crown winner. The release of the film coincides with the 100th anniversary of his Triple Crown sweep. “In Born To Rein we feature time-period music, images and video to depict Sir Barton’s journey -- from being foaled in Kentucky, winning the Triple Crown Races in 1919, standing stud at Audley Farm in Virginia from 1921-1927, being sold to the U.S. Army Remount Service in Front Royal, Va., and later to Fort Robinson, NE,” Lamp described.
The three men talked about in this film are well-respected within the industry. Because of this, Jody says it was very easy for her to get interviews with some of today’s most recognizable industry professionals. They never even had to make an appointment with people like Bob Baffert, Mike Smith, D. Wayne Lukas, Bill Mott, Pat Day, and Gary Stevens. All they had to do was approach them with their filming equipment and tell them who they were making a film about. “Everyone that we interviewed was more than happy to share their memories and admiration for John, Marion and Jack,” said Lamp. “And you could tell they didn’t visit with us out of a sense of obligation…they gave us their time because it was for the genuine respect they had for these three gentlemen”.
Born To Rein has been making appearances in theaters and festivals across the country, but the sweet ladies who made this film need your help! They encourage everyone to contact their local theaters and request it to the independent business owners. They would also entertain movie production companies and television network companies so that their film can reach audiences nationwide.