John A. Nerud

Born on a ranch in Nebraska, John Nerud worked as a rodeo cowboy and a groom in his youth before turning to training thoroughbreds. 

John Nerud at Belmont Park, May 1957 (Keeneland Library Morgan Collection/Museum Collection)



Feb. 9, 1913, Minatare, Nebraska


Aug, 13, 2015, Old Brookville, New York






Born on a ranch in Nebraska, John Nerud worked as a rodeo cowboy and a groom in his youth before turning to training thoroughbreds. 

Prior to serving in World War II, Nerud was the agent for future Hall of Fame jockey Ted Atkinson in New England. He served with the Navy during the war then returned to racing as an assistant to Frank J. Kearns at Woolford Farm. Nerud eventually took over from Kearns, and in 1949 trained his first Champion, Delegate, that year's co-champion sprinter.

Nerud spent the bulk of his 44-year training career as a trainer, president, and general manager for William L. McKnight’s Tartan Farms in Ocala, Florida. When Nerud retired from training in 1978, he remained at Tartan as manager of racing and breeding.

As a trainer, Nerud first drew national attention in 1956, prepping Switch On to win the Palm Beach and McLennan handicaps. The following year, Nerud lost the Kentucky Derby by a nose to Iron Liege after jockey Bill Shoemaker, aboard Gallant Man, misjudged the finish line. Gallant Man later defeated Bold Ruler in a record-breaking Belmont Stakes.

Nerud’s most acclaimed runner was Hall of Famer Dr. Fager. In 1968, Dr. Fager became the only horse to win four championships in one year: Sprinter, Turf Horse, Handicap Horse, and Horse of the Year. In addition to Delegate and Dr. Fager, Nerud also trained champions Intentionally (1959 champion sprinter) Ta Wee (1969 champion sprinter), and Dr. Patches (1978 co-champion sprinter). Overall, Nerud is credited with saddling 1,007 winners, including 27 stakes winners.

Nerud helped turned Tartan into one of the nation’s top racing and breeding operations. Along with developing an excellent broodmare band, Tartan stood Dr. Fager, Intentionally, In Reality, Hold Your Peace, Codex, and Smile.

During the early 1980s, Nerud assisted in the early development of the Breeders’ Cup, helping founder John R. Gaines to sell the concept to horsemen across the nation. As a founding member, Nerud also served as chairman of the Breeders’ Cup marketing committee in its formative years. In 1985, Nerud won the Breeders’ Cup Mile with his homebred Cozzene, who was trained by his son, Jan. Cozzene was voted the 1985 Eclipse Award for Outstanding Male Turf Horse.

Other notable races won by Nerud horses include the Travers Stakes, Jockey Club Gold Cup, Peter Pan Stakes, Hollywood Gold Cup, Metropolitan Handicap, Arlington Classic, Withers Stakes, Hawthorne Gold Cup, Gotham Stakes, Man o’ War Stakes, Suburban Handicap, Whitney Handicap, Gazelle Handicap, four editions of the Vosburgh Stakes, and two runnings of the United Nations Handicap, among others.

John A. Nerud was inducted into the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame in 1972.


Triple Crown Highlights

Won the 1957 Belmont Stakes — Gallant Man

Other Highlights

Won the Palm Beach Handicap — 1956, 1957, 1962, 1964
Won the Vosburgh Stakes  1967, 1968, 1978
Won the Test Stakes — 1960, 1969
Won the Jockey Club Gold Cup — 1957
Won the Travers Stakes — 1957
Won the Hollywood Gold Cup — 1958
Won the Metropolitan Handicap — 1958
Won the Suburban Handicap — 1968
Won the Whitney Handicap — 1968


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