Haskin's Derby Trail: A Legacy to John Nerud

If you’ve been following this year’s Kentucky Derby trail, you no doubt will recognize the names Verrazano, Orb, Flashback, Will Take Charge, Govenor Charlie, Lines of Battle, Normandy Invasion, Mr. Palmer, Super Ninety Nine, He’s Had Enough, Shakin It Up, Capo Bastone, and My Lute.

What they have in common is they all carry the John Nerud influence in their pedigree, mainly through the descendents of Fappiano and Dr. Fager and continuing through Unbridled and Quiet American. It is the last two on which we will concentrate, as they both reflect the true genius of Nerud, who celebrated his 100th birthday this year. What is ironic is that Nerud never believed in the Derby and ran only one horse in the race – Gallant Man in 1957.

One of only two horses to win the Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic in the same year, Unbridled is s product of Nerud’s amazing insight and foresight and grasp of all aspects of the racing and breeding industry. It is safe to say Unbridled is one of the most brilliantly conceived Thoroughbreds of modern times.

There would be nothing more appropriate than to have Nerud play an integral part in the breeding of a Kentucky Derby winner the same year as his 100th birthday. What a great tribute that would to a living legend. And if that should be Orb, it would fitting for Nerud to be part of Shug McGaughey’s and the Janney and Phipps families’ first Derby winner, for there is no one who respects tradition and old school breeding and training more than Nerud.

Unbridled’s story began when Nerud, while in the process of building the Tartan Farm empire, purchased the filly Cequillo, who became one of two Tartan foundation mares, along with Aspidistra. Cequillo produced Man o’War Stakes winner Ruffled Feathers; stakes winners Hot Dust (winner of the Hialeah Turf Cup and second in the Travers and Widener) and Tequillo; Quiet Charm, who produced Demure, the dam of top-class racehorse and sire Quiet American; and Grand Splendor, who produced Gonfalon, the dam of the brilliant Ogygian. Grand Splendor also is the third dam of Met Mile winner Honour and Glory.

But Nerud’s major coup came when he bred Grand Splendor to Dr. Fager and got Killaloe, who produced Jedina, the dam of Clabber Girl, who won or placed in 15 stakes, nine of them grade Is, including the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, Ruffian, Top Flight, and Santa Margarita. Jedina also produced Fineza, the dam of Kentucky Oaks winner Keeper Hill.

Killaloe’s crowning achievement, however, was her Mr. Prospector colt Fappiano, who won the Met Mile and Forego Handicaps in Nerud’s colors, and became one of the most influential sires of the last 30 years, despite dying at age 13 of laminitis. Who knows the extent of his influence on the breed had he lived a full life.

Nerud had been looking for the right stallion to breed Killaloe to and took a liking to a young Florida stallion owned by Butch Savin named Mr. Prospector, who was standing for $7,500.

Nerud liked the fact that Mr. Prospector was extremely fast, blazing six furlongs in a track-record 1:07 4/5 at Gulfstream, and had withstood Jimmy Croll’s hard training. He decided he was the perfect match for Killaloe, but she had a late foal that year and it was already June. Savin did not want Mr. Prospector having any May foals and turned Nerud down. But in typical Nerud fashion, he told Savin, “Butch, you’re so rich you don’t want to take my money? Look out the window and tell me what the hell Mr. Prospector is doing now.” Savin told him, ‘Nothing,’ to which Nerud replied, “Well, neither is my mare. Let me worry about having a May foal.” Savin finally agreed, and Nerud bred Killaloe to Mr. Prospector.

The resulting foal was Fappiano. To this day, Nerud feels he made a mistake by not buying half-interest in Mr. Prospector and keeping him in Florida.

Nerud stood Fappiano at Tartan Farm until 1987, syndicating him for $300,000 a share. Fappiano made Nerud millions and enabled him to buy his current estate on Long Island.

Now, let’s go back to 1969. Nerud had bred Aspidistra (dam of Hall of Famers Dr. Fager and Ta Wee) to Buckpasser, giving him inbreeding to two of his favorite lines, Man o’War through War Admiral and La Troienne, perhaps the greatest Blue Hen producer of the century and one of the main founders of the Phipps dynasty.

The resulting foal was named Magic, who Nerud bred to In Reality, a colt by his stallion Intentionally. Nerud raised In Reality at Tartan in the same fields with Dr. Fager and always admired the tough, pocket-sized colt as a racehorse and sire. He also loved the fact that In Reality, who was owned by his longtime client Mrs. Frances Genter, was inbred to Man o’War’s son War Relic, and by breeding him to Magic, he was able to get four crosses of Man o’ War, as well as three crosses of Bull Dog, a son of Teddy, whose line was another of Nerud’s favorites. Bull Dog also sired Bull Lea, who almost single-handedly founded the Calumet Farm dynasty. And it was Calumet trainer Ben Jones who was one of Nerud’s mentors. So, Nerud had bred his perfect horse, infused with the blood of his favorite pedigree lines.

The In Reality – Magic foal was named Charedi, who wasn’t a top-class racehorse, but did have plenty of speed. So when it was time to breed Charedi, Nerud sought out the most stamina-oriented stallion he could find, and that was the great French-bred sire Le Fabuleux. The resulting foal was named Gana Facil, who raced in a couple of stakes at Calder for Frank Gomez, ending her career racing mostly at around a mile and 1 1/16 miles. Because she didn’t have much speed and was by a staying sire, but was from royal blood, Nerud bred her to the best, and that was Fappiano, who could sire top horses at any distance, especially those will brilliance.

The speed in Gana Facil’s pedigree through Charedi and Aspidistra and the stamina of Le Fabuleux and Buckpasser combined perfectly with Fappiano’s blend of speed and stamina and the inbreeding to Aspidistra to produce Unbridled, who was sold to Nerud’s  longtime client and friend, Bentley Smith, representing Mrs. Genter, at the Tartan Farm dispersal as a weanling for $70,000.

Nerud had created the perfect storm of breeding, with everything he planned moving forward with each generation and ultimately producing Unbridled, who would continue the Nerud influence by becoming one of the great sires of his time. Among his sons was Unbridled’s Song, who has been one of the most dominant sires of the last 15 years.

“It took me 10 years to get Unbridled, and I should have kept him,” Nerud said. “But I had given my word I was going to sell all the babies and all the horses in training, and I had to keep my word.”

Unbridled not only won the Kentucky Derby, he also sired Derby winner Grindstone and Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker.

Unbridled was bred to Mesabi Maiden, a Janney III and Phipps bred-mare, whose granddam, Laughter, was a half-sister to the great Ruffian, and the resulting foal was Lady Liberty, the dam of Orb.

Unbridled also is the broodmare sire of Tapit, the sire of leading 3-year-olds Flashback and Normandy Invasion, as well as last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile runner-up He’s Had Enough, who is off to Dubai for the UAE Derby.

Unbridled’s Song, in addition to siring Will Take Charge, is the broodmare sire of Southwest Stakes winner Super Ninety Nine.

Nerud’s influence on this year’s Derby trail also can be felt through Quiet American, with whom Nerud rewrote the book on inbreeding.

We already know the story about his sire Fappiano, but for the dam’s story, we once again go back to Cequillo. In 1970, Nerud bred Cequillo to Northern Dancer’s sire Nearctic and got Quiet Charm, who won only one of six starts before being retired to Tartan. Nerud bred Quiet Charm to Dr. Fager and she produced a filly named Demure, who was even worse than her dam, winning only two of 20 starts.

Nerud decided to infuse the blood of Dr. Fager extremely close up by breeding Demure to Fappiano. That meant the resulting foal was inbred 2x3 to Dr. Fager. Like Unbridled, the colt was consigned to the Tartan dispersal, held by Fasig-Tipton Kentucky, and brought $300,000 by Sheikh Maktoum al Maktoum, who named the colt Quiet American. He would go on to win the NYRA Mile and other stakes before being retired to the Sheikh’s Gainsborough Farm, where he would stand until 2006 before being moved to Jonabell Farm when Darley took over the farm and began building a major stallion operation.

Quiet American made a huge impact on the classics and the sport in general, siring Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Real Quiet, who came within a nose of sweeping the Triple Crown in 1998. Quiet American also is the broodmare sire of 3-year-old champion Bernardini, winner of the Preakness, Travers, and Jockey Club Gold Cup, and Saint Liam, Horse of the Year and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner in 2005.

Quiet American’s influence also is being felt through Real Quiet’s son Midnight Lute, a two-time Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner who has made an immediate impact on the Derby and Oaks trail with promising 3-year-olds Govenor Charlie, Shakin It Up, Mylute, Where’s Dominic, and the brilliant filly Midnight Lucky. This past weekend, Govenor Charlie and Midnight Lucky not only romped in the Sunland Derby and Sunland Oaks, respectively, they both broke the track record.

Quiet American, who was retired from stud duty this year at age 27, also is the broodmare sire of Private Terms Stakes winner Mr. Palmer, who runs next in the Wood Memorial, and the promising Abstraction, who recently romped by 9 ¾ lengths in a maiden race at Fair Grounds. And you can also find Nerud’s influence in the pedigree of Rebel Stakes winner Will Take Charge, who is inbred 3x4 to Fappiano. And if you go back in Verrazano’s tail-female family you will find fourth dam Remedia, who is a daughter of Dr. Fager.

Also, the multiple grade I-placed Capo Bastone is by Street Boss, who is out of an Ogygian mare.

Whatever happens over the course of the 2013 Derby trail, John Nerud’s impact on this year’s 3-year-old crop already has served as a fitting legacy to one of the true geniuses the sport has ever known.  

26 Comments

Leave a Comment:

steve from st louis

I've never seen a horse set a world record which has stood the test of decades and doing it so well within himself like Dr. Fager did in his one-turn mile at Arlington Park under 134 pounds.  Amazing.

Steve, did you ever ask Nerud about Whiteley using the rabbit Hedevar when double-teaming Dr. Fager with his top rival, Damascus? Damascus beat Dr. Fager twice with Hedever in the race while the good Dr. never lost when Damascus ran alone. Many great stories there I'm sure.

25 Mar 2013 4:50 PM
Cassandra.Says

I always thought the importation of Le Fabuleux was one of the top five inspired breeding moves of the century. Talk about the ultimate outcross. His whole pedigree was built up slowly, and especially his top line which took 80 years to St. Simon in his fourth generation!

He was a gorgeous horse, with a gaiety reminiscent of Secretariat. Of course my most vivid memory of Secretariat is watching him on his way to the breeding shed with all flags flying.

25 Mar 2013 5:32 PM
Cassandra.Says

P.S. Remember when it was believed older stallions could not produce good offspring?

St. Simon was 19 yrs older than Rabelais, who was 23 years older than Rialto, who was 17 years older than Wild Risk, who was 21 years older than Le Fabuleux.

25 Mar 2013 5:39 PM
Susan from VA

Where would thoroughbred racing be without Mr. Nerud?

25 Mar 2013 7:36 PM
E O P

It's a great story.  Lots of details.  Thanks.  I think  Lady Liberty, dam of Orb, was foaled in 1999.  2009 would have been a pretty quick turn around.

25 Mar 2013 8:58 PM
El Kabong

Steve,

The first thing I pointed out to my brother after the Sunland Derby was that the grandsons of Real Quiet(Quiet American) finished 1,2 and 4  and Midnight Lucky destroyed her competition. We were looking at the Govenor wondering if the Real Quiet would help him given his sprinting father's history and I guess it did. Didn't hurt to have Silverbulletday over on the other side but he looks like a runner for the distance doesn't he?  Could be another feather in the cap for Sunland as well if everyone overlooks the horse for the track.

Mr. Nerud was the guest on the Win Place Show radio program run by Joe Withee and at 98 he was still sharp as a tack and entertained us all with amazing recall of racing history. He's a treasure.

25 Mar 2013 9:59 PM
Jermon

In 1951 when I was in the military and stationed in Colorado, I met a trainer at Centennial through some horsey people. He generally raced the Chicago and Florida circuits. Because his clients had summer homes in the foothills west of Denver and

wanted to see their horses run, he was obligated to ship in for the summer meet. I knew him on and off for a period of years, and in talking about this and that, horses and people, he advised me that should I come across a trainer by the name of John Nerud,

to be aware and pay attention, that he was a sharp horseman, knew the racing game, and if he got a shot would do great things.

That was the best advice anyone ever gave me in beating the races. Although I always felt John was strictly legit, he was very shrewd in placing his horses for a price, whenever possible. As a result, there were times I was able to score for telephone numbers, as we

used to say in Brooklyn.

A sampling, Grand Splendor $82 and

$46. her son Agate Bay, $63. Ruffled Feathers $45 and $82.

I missed Fappiano by a day. He broke his maiden the day before I

arrived in New York for my annual visit. He paid $82 with Cordero up.

I would have all over him if I had been in time.

26 Mar 2013 12:17 AM
Steve Haskin

EOP, yes, I fixed that. Had a brain meltdown on that one. Thanks.

26 Mar 2013 12:31 AM
The Deacon

Steve: Just sitting here reading this blog over and over and hanging on every word. Nerud is my all time favorite trainer and horseman. What he has done for this sport is immeasurable. His brilliance is second to none, he is the John Wooden of horse racing.

Just reading about the great "Doctor" and Ta Wee, Fappiano, etc gives me goose bumps. Thank you for taking the time to write this.

By the way, my dad may he rest in peace saw one Kentucky Derby in person and it was in 1957 when Shoemaker (as the story goes) mis-judge the finish and Gallant Man got nipped by Iron Liege. He never forgave Shoemaker........

26 Mar 2013 3:34 AM
Zen4Zen

Steve -- Your knowledge, research, and ability to put both together in a compelling and eminently readable way is awesome (and I don't use that word lightly).  Thanks for another great article!

26 Mar 2013 6:35 AM
derbylin

Wonderful, wonderful story, Steve.

Dr Fager, one of my all time favorites.

26 Mar 2013 9:53 AM
Blum Gone

Steve, thanks so much for another wonderfully written article about "my" Dr. Fager.  I try to have all of Quiet American's foals in my Virtual Stable and watch them on t.v.

I need to visit the Doc again at Winding Oaks.

Sue, FL

26 Mar 2013 10:22 AM
Love 'em all

A belated 'Happy 100th Birthday' to Mr. Nerud.  In case someone missed reading the following, you're in for another treat ...  

www.bloodhorse.com/.../nerud-turns-100-in-style-with-birthday-bash

Cheers to John Nerud.

26 Mar 2013 11:59 AM
SOUTHBENDFARM

After reading this article, especially the part about Quiet American, I am very excited about my 3 year old Q.A. colt of of my Fly So Free mare.  He has been training lights out in Florida.  he is a little like Real Quiet in that his shins are a little tender, but thankfully he is growing out of that.  His bottom line is all stamina and he seems to have boundless stamina also.  The Damascus on the bottom side of the pedigree seems to be more stamina.  I only wish we could have him ready for the Spring races, but he won't be able to get there.  This summer and fall and next year should be fun.

26 Mar 2013 1:10 PM
classic go go

Another very good piece . A legend

26 Mar 2013 3:52 PM
B-Mac

As awesome as this article is to a pedigree pundit like myself, I'm surprised Mr. Haskin left out an associated detail. Mr. Haskin, how could you forget to mention the full brother to Fappiano, foaled just one year after by the name of Cahill Road. He was retired after winning the Wood Memorial in dominant style and many believe that because he had more natural speed than Unbridled he may have been as good or better. Didn't produce much in the stud barn, but Cahill Road was a running you know what......Oversight Ya Think?

26 Mar 2013 11:46 PM
Steve Haskin

B-Mac, Cahill Road is a full brother to Unbridled, not Fappiano and he wasnt bred by Nerud. They had sold the dam and he was bred by Frances Genter. I could have mentioned it as a point of interest, ,but it had no bearing on this year's crop of 3-year-olds

27 Mar 2013 2:07 AM
Old Timer

Steve, this is a wonderful article with lots of great background information. I agree fully that this family tree is the best one to have going into the Kentucky Derby. Unbridled and Real Quiet gave me a couple of my best wins at the betting windows on the first Saturday in May.

The other thing I'd like to add is to agree with steve from st. louis regarding Hedevar.  I was present for a few of the Dr. Fager vs. Damascus duels and I hated the way they stuck Hedevar in there to soften up the Dr. It just did not seem fair and I always wished that they would have a match race with the Dr. and Damascus. IMO it would have been a runaway for Dr. Fager.

Now the question is which one of the offspring of these great champions to bet in Kentucky Derby 2013!

Lastly, two of my most treasured books are the Thoroughbred Champions books on Dr. Fager and Kelso.

27 Mar 2013 9:02 AM
Rob Whiteley

Unbridled was competitive tough and surprisingly athletic for a big horse, like so many from Nerud's legacy. Unbridled as Steve writes was also "brilliantly conceived" and so was this article ... both masterpieces.

Historical reviews don't get any better than this, nuanced with perspective and detail and written by someone who "sees" and "knows."

I hope this article will later appear as a chapter in a book by Steve Haskin which traces the threads and stories that made American racing what it is today in order to remind us of what it might someday become again.

The quality of this article also reflects in the thoughtful quality of the responders' numerous interesting comments.

27 Mar 2013 9:38 AM
Linda in Texas

Steve I am curious, why did Mr. Nerud not believe in the Derby and only ran Gallant Man in 1957?

Brilliant piece of history and writing and is giving me so much to study. I loved the tidbit about how Mr. Nerud chided Mr. Savin into breeding Mr. Prospector to his mare Killaloe.

Mr. Nerud sir, you are priceless and one of a wonderful kind for sure. And a Very Happy One Hundredth Birthday, sir.

I can just imagine the stories you could tell about your experiences.

Thanks, Steve for repeating them.

And what a treat to have Mr. Whiteley post here. I do believe he is the breeder of my pick

Itsmyluckyday and also Rydilluc and Crop Report. I bet Mr. Whiteley has a few stories he could share with us.

27 Mar 2013 2:53 PM
Blum Gone

Old Timer, the only book on Fager was written by Steve H.  And "they" just don't make 'em like Kelso anymore, do they?

Steve, it will also be interesting to see what Star Guitar produces, old Iron Horse that he was for many years!

28 Mar 2013 2:42 PM
nickie

remarkable article Steve, and Nerud a big part of why I grew to love the game. 'Fager my fav, but you mentioning Hot Dust knocked me out as it was my first Travers, and I remember he was a price[being against the likes of Chateaugay, Never Bend and Candy Spots...none who were the winner and the "thin man" in the saddle Johnny Sellers[RIP]...truly a mountain of memories Steve...thanks!

28 Mar 2013 6:50 PM
tom mallios

got to meet mr.nerud at belmont park sitting in the box next to him.a true gentleman.one of the great horsemen of our time.still had his binocs and went to the paddock for most races.  

28 Mar 2013 9:22 PM
Jermon

When Nerud's career is reviewed in the context of a time, it becomes even more commendable. During the heydey of racing, the day of the big blue blood stables racing the best bred horses, sired by an influx of foreign bred elitish stallions and the American Bold Ruler, John held his own. He competed. One of the very few outside the establishment to do so. To one who began becoming familiar with his career before his arrival in New York, then the epicenter of racing in this country, Ta Wee and Dr. Fager are just exclamation points in an outstanding body of work. He did it all!!!

28 Mar 2013 10:46 PM
Pedigree Ann

Classic Go Go -

I saw your namesake at Keeneland! He won the Forerunner Purse, a non-stakes midweek Derby prep. I guess it became the Lexington S. later on. ANYway, I have photos of him in the paddock somewhere in the basement. Love idiosyncratic breeders like the Winchells and Tartan - they keep us from developing a completely homogenized gene pool.

29 Mar 2013 11:58 AM
JoyJackson21

Hi Steve,

Thank you for a fabulous article about Mr. Nerud.  I wish him a very Happy 100th Birthday.  What a life and career this man has had!  I am very impressed.

I am also very impressed with the wealth of knowledge you have on pedigrees, Steve.  I found it fascinating reading about Quiet American, Unbridled, Cequillo, etc., etc.  It's always interesting how the brillance of one man, in this case Mr. Nerud, can influence generations of a breed and leave a large footprint in the sands of time.  I had both Real Quiet and Grindstone in the KY Derby (and four other 1990s KY Derby winners - not bragging, just a statement of fact), having no idea how interesting their breeding history was and how it related to the great ones of racing history.  Of course, I was really young back then, I was doing great just being able to pick a Derby winner at all at the time! - LOL.  

I grew up hearing incredible tales from my grandparents and parents about Man 'O War, Seabiscuit, Gallant Man, Whirlaway, Count Fleet, Citation, Dr. Fager, Northern Dancer, Majestic Prince, Riva Ridge, Canonero II, Secretariat, etc., and I just love the rich history of the game and the majesty of the horses.  Mr. Nerud was a historian of all of these horses and had a hand in shaping history with their progeny.  Wow!  That's amazing!!  It's humbling just reading his story!  

This has been a wonderful experience for me.  Thank you, Steve, and thank you Mr. Nerud.  Fabulous article!

01 Apr 2013 5:47 PM

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