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Friday Notes: Van Berg Returning to FG As Auctioneer
When the devastating news concerning the health issues of recently retired jockey E.J. “Tee Joe” Perrodin became public – and that Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots would be hosting a charitable crawfish boil March 20 to benefit the popular rider’s family – one of the first people to volunteer his services at the upcoming event was Hall of Fame trainer JackVan Berg, who will be returning to New Orleans that afternoon as an auctioneer.
Native Louisianan Perrodin, 55, who won 3,083 during his lengthy career, announced is retirement from the saddle in early February at Fair Grounds. Tragically, just days later, the revered reinsman was diagnosed with Stage 4 brain cancer.
Nebraska-born Van Berg, who won 10 Fair Grounds training titles during a 12-year period at the Crescent City oval from 1965 to 1977, ranks second among Thoroughbred racing’s all-time conditioners with more than 6,400 winners and is the all-time leading trainer at Fair Grounds. Like his late father Marion Van Berg before him, Jack is a member of the Fair Grounds Hall of Fame as well as the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame at Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
However, Van Berg is also an accomplished auctioneer, and as soon as he heard about Perrodin’s illness and the local oval’s upcoming crawfish boil on behalf of the rider’s family, Van Berg called longtime friend Sandra Salmen of Fair Grounds horsemen’s relations and offered to fly in to help auction off souvenir items donated to the Perrodin family’s cause.
“Yeah, I knew E. J. pretty well when I raced down there,” said Van Berg, reached by cell phone while astride his pony during training hours at Santa Anita this week. “He rode quite a few horses for me and he was always a real good fellow.
“I’m looking forward to coming back down there to New Orleans for a cause like this one,” Van Berg said. “I can’t even tell you the last time I was down there but it’s been a while now. I’d like to get there on Sunday if I can get away for that long because I know I have to get back out here pretty quick.”
Fair Grounds’ annual dark day crawfish boil in the paddock – with proceeds from this year’s feast benefiting Perrodin’s family – will feature mountains of mudbugs as well as corn, potatoes and beer. Festivities will also include the traditional Jockey Crawfish-Eating Contest as well the chance to bid on the racing souvenirs donated. Tickets are $25. For further information contact Sandra Salmen at (504) 948-1150 or Sandra.Salmen@fgno.com.
WINE PRINCESS DEBUTS LIKE RACING ROYALTY – Becky Winemiller’s Wine Princess, a 3-year-old filly by 2004 Horse of the Year Ghostzapper and out of 2002 Horse of the Year Azeri, made the first start of her career in the fifth race at Fair Grounds Thursday and finished second despite encountering some trouble along the way.
“She clipped heels early on and that was a lot to overcome,” said trainer Steve Margolis Friday, “but she finished up real well and that’s what we were looking for. We knew she wasn’t really a 5 1/2-furlong horse going in, but we were anxious to get her started and that race was kind of a good starting point for us.”
Wine Princess was a $475,000 purchase at the Keeneland September sale in 2010.
KENTUCKY DERBY, OAKS FUTURE WAGERS FEATURE FAIR GROUNDS RUNNERS – Let’s Go Stable’s El Padrino, the Todd Pletcher trainee ridden by Javier Castellano who was best by a nose in Fair Grounds’ Grade II Risen Star Stakes Feb. 25 as the designed prep for the upcoming $1 million Louisiana Derby on April 1, closed out at 12.70-1 when the second pool of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager closed last Sunday.
Interestingly, trainer Pletcher was credited with the 3,000th victory of his career exactly two weeks before El Padrino’s Risen Star win, while jockey Castellano earned his 3,000th career win one day before his winning ride in the Risen Star.
Brereton Jones’s Mark Valeski, beaten a nose when the Risen Star runner-up, closed out the second pool of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager at 38.70-1 despite the narrow margin of his Risen Star defeat.
Gillian Campbell et al.’s Summer Applause, heroine of Fair Grounds’ Grade III Rachel Alexandra Stakes on Feb. 25 as the final designed prep for the upcoming $500,000 Fair Grounds Oaks on March 31, closed out the lone Kentucky Oaks Future Wager last Sunday at 16.40-1.
Trained by Bret Calhoun, Summer Applause was ridden by seven-time Fair Grounds riding champion Robby Albarado in the Rachel Alexandra.
Tall Oaks Farm’s Avie’s Sense, the Rachel Alexandra runner-up who was beaten a length by the winner, closed out the only Kentucky Oaks Future Wager at a generous 44.80-1.
Avie’s Sense is trained by Josie Carroll and was ridden by jockey James Graham, currently the runner-up in the Fair Grounds standings, when she went to the post in the Rachel Alexandra.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR: LA. DERBY POST DRAW MARCH 26 – Post positions for the $1 million Louisiana Derby will be drawn at a special media event March 26 at 11 a.m. in the Fair Grounds paddock. Trainers with horses prominent in the Louisiana Derby will be available for one-on-one interviews immediately following the draw. The rest of the Closing Day card will be drawn that morning in the Racing Office.
NEW PAINTINGS ON VIEW IN CLUBHOUSE – Four original large-scale, racing-themed oil paintings by New Orleans-based artist Ruth Owens are on view in the Clubhouse for the remainder of the season. The paintings are available for purchase from the artist, with a portion of the proceeds to benefit the Louisiana Horse Rescue Association. Three of the paintings capture head-on views of Thoroughbreds racing down the stretch, while the fourth is a tight view of a racehorse’s head with the jockey perched just behind. “My interest is to explore ideas of tension and conflict,” Owens said. “Portraying the mighty horse and diminutive rider, with the exact opposite holding of power, is the type of tension I am drawn to.” For more information, contact Owens at (504) 914-8098.