The timing of his Saturday arrival to Fonner Park on 'Kentucky Derby Day' couldn't be more perfect.
Thoroughbred racing-icon Jack Van Berg will be watching the 'Derby Doins' with us, as his whirlwind, nation-wide book-signing tour lands in Grand Island, fresh off a three-day stint at the Derby Museum, located on the grounds of Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.
Promoting his recently published biography, "Jack, From Grit to Glory", the 77-year-old native of Columbus, Ne., who trained the 1987 Derby Champion, Alysheba, says he can't wait to get home.
"Whatever it takes to promote the future of Nebraska racing, that's what I'll do," said the longtime,lovable horseman via phone earlier this week. "I'm yours for the whole day.""
According to Chris Kotulak, author of the book and former Fonner race-caller, "This whole thing started by accident as our paths crossed one day in the paddock of Hollywood Park. I asked Jack if he'd read any of my articles on Ak-Sar-Ben that were being printed in Midwest Thoroughbred Magazine?"
Kotulak got no response.
Suddenly, Jack rode up on his saddle-pony and bellered, " I want you to write my book."
A week went by before Kotulak, a native of Omaha, accepted the challenge.
That was three years ago.
"It's Jack's story....I just put it into print," added Kotulak. "My pride of being a Nebraskan--I think--is revealed in the book. I love my roots....and I realized the grit of what Jack Van Berg had to go through...it was more than just working very hard."
Jack Van Berg will be available down on the mainline at Fonner Park, beginning at 12:30pm on Saturday. Paperback editions of "Jack, From Grit to Glory" can be purchased for $20.
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In closing, just a quick reflection back to Bosselman-Gus Fonner Stakes day:
Some 7500 race fans were in attendance to witness, what I thought, was the greatest moment in Fonner's illustrious 60-year history of hosting 'live racing'.
Chants of "Joe, Joe, Joe" rang out from one end of the complex to the other as Diamond Joe became the first Nebraska-bred horse to ever claim the coveted Silver Horse Trophy.
I can't put into words the emotions I felt as the horses thundered down the stretch....let alone capsulizing what I saw as I serpentined my way through the crowd on my way to the winner's circle immediately following the race.
Rest assured, it was just short of pure pandemonium.
As recently as Thursday of this week, trainer Chuck Turco still had a lump in his throat as he replayed the aftermath of the Boss' Cap still etched vividly in his mind.
"I didn't do it--Diamond Joe did it," said Turco. " I always thought he had a heck of shot to win, but, on the other hand (my head) kept telling me we probably aren't going to do it... but I thought he was pretty impressive."
Cherish the moment.
Be steadfast that all who share the 'passion of the horse' will come this way again, and savor every minute of this final weekend of the season.
It was a hell of a ride!