Yes, I have written about the genius of John Nerud on numerous occasions, and through his vast knowledge of pedigrees and the physical horse, he has created his own niche in the annals of Thoroughbred breeding.
But as each month passes by, that niche becomes larger and larger and has now reached staggering proportions. One person referred to Nerud as the modern day Tesio, and at the rate his influence keeps growing there may be a great deal of truth to that comment -- if not right now, in the near future.
I had no intention of writing about Nerud again, but following today’s opening card at Royal Ascot, one of racing’s foremost historians, Abigail Anderson, author of the history-based blog “The Vault,” suggested it was time for another column. I initially thought it would be repetitive, but when it comes to John Nerud my arm can easily be twisted, especially considering Lady Aurelia has five Nerud-bred horses in her pedigree, top and bottom.
So, here we are once again following yet another John Nerud coup. Just to quickly catch up since my last Nerud column about his powerful influence on Arrogate’s pedigree, he is now responsible this year alone for Arrogate, Always Dreaming, Tapwrit, Gun Runner, Classic Empire, and after today, Lady Aurelia, who crushed older horses and males in the group 1 King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot.
In less than a year, those six horses, still in training, have won the Kentucky Derby, Belmont Stakes, Breeders’ Cup Classic, Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Travers Stakes, Stephen Foster Handicap, Arkansas Derby, Clark Handicap, King’s Stand Stakes, and finished first and second in the Dubai World Cup. In fact. Classic Empire’s head defeat in the Preakness Stakes prevented Nerud from being responsible for all three individual Triple Crown race winners.
Going back to 2014, you can add Triple Crown winner and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner American Pharoah and Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner California Chrome.
Since 2015, of the top 10 highest TimeformUS speed ratings, nine of them belong to horses who came from John Nerud's breeding.
Nerud has had his influence stamped on seven Kentucky Derby winners since 2005, including the last five – Orb, California Chrome, American Pharoah, Nyquist, and Always Dreaming. Not to mention the last two Breeders’ Cup Classic winners, American Pharoah and Arrogate, and the last two Dubai World Cup winners, California Chrome and Arrogate, who rank first and second among the all-time money winners in North America.
In addition, the Nerud-bred Unbridled, a son of the Nerud bred and owned Fappiano and one of the most dominant influences in the United States, also is the broodmare sire of Tapit, THE most dominating sire in the country, on the racetrack and at the sales, whose influence on the breed is too extensive to get into here, except to say that Tapit has sired three of the last four Belmont Stakes winners – Tonalist, Creator, and Tapwrit.
And speaking of Lady Aurelia and Royal Ascot, Order of St. George, winning of last year's Ascot Gold Cup and beaten a whisker in this year's Gold Cup, and who was also third in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, traces to Fappiano in his tail-female family. Back to sprinting, the brilliant undefeated Caravaggio, winner of the Commonwealth Cup has five horses in his pedigree bred by Nerud (Ogygian, Gonfalon, Great Above, Ta Wee, and Minnesota Mac. The stallion who has dominated Royal Ascot this year is Scat Daddy, whose sire, Johannesburg, is out of an Ogygian mare.
And going farther back, there is also Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Cozzene, who Nerud owned and bred, who sired Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Alphabet Soup and Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Tikkanen.
This actually is just scratching the surface when it comes to Nerud’s influence. You can add Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra; Frosted, winner of the Met Mile and Whitney Stakes; Game on Dude, the only three-time winner of the Santa Anita Handicap and the winner of the Big Cap, Hollywood Gold Cup, and Pacific Classic in the same year; and another Santa Anita Handicap winner, Misremembered. Also Travers winner Will Take Charge and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Hansen. There are plenty more.
Not bad for a hardboot from the wilds on Northwest Nebraska, who started out as jockey’s agent and then trainer before building the Tartan Stable empire.
A quick look at the recent Nerud scorecard shows the list of some of the recent aforementioned stakes winners and which Nerud-bred horses appear in their pedigree:
Always Dreaming (Unbridled, Fappiano, Dr. Fager)
American Pharoah (Unbridled, Fappiano, Dr. Fager)
Arrogate (Unbridled, Fappiano, Dr. Fager)
California Chrome (Cozzene)
Caravaggio (Ogygian, Great Above, Ta Wee, Minnesota Mac)
Classic Empire (Unbridled, Fappiano, Dr. Fager)
Creator (Unbridled, Fappiano, Dr. Fager)
Frosted (Unbridled, Fappiano, Dr. Fager)
Game On Dude (Dr. Fager)
Gun Runner (Fappiano twice and Dr. Fager three times)
Lady Aurelia (Ogygian, Great Above, Ta Wee, Minnesota Mac)
Nyquist (Dr. Fager)
Order of St. George (Fappiano)
Rachel Alexandra (Dr. Fager)
Tapwrit (Unbridled, Fappiano, Dr. Fager)
Tonalist (Unbridled, Fappiano, Dr. Fager)
Will Take Charge (Unbridled, Fappiano, Dr. Fager)
What makes Nerud's influence even more remarkable is that Dr. Fager died at the age of 12 and Fappiano died at the age of 13. Imagine if they had lived full lives as stallions. Dr. Fager's half sister Ta Wee made her mark when her son Great Above sired the great Holy Bull and the dam of two-time champion sprinter Housebuster. Both Holy Bull and Housebuster are in the Hall of Fame.
If you wish to get to know John Nerud better and learn about the man and his fascinating life, you can read my obituary column
See you at the next Nerud update.