Updated on 08/13/2015 11:41AM

John Nerud dead at 102

Barbara D. Livingston
John Nerud was a co-founder of the Breeders' Cup

John Nerud, a towering figure in Thoroughbred racing for nearly six decades, has died at 102. He passed away Thursday at his home in Old Brookville, N.Y. He had celebrated his 102nd birthday on Feb. 9.

In addition to being one of the greatest trainers of all time, Nerud was an esteemed owner and breeder and was a co-founder with John Gaines of the Breeders’ Cup. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1972 and was given the Eclipse Award of Merit in 2007.

Photo Slideshow: John Nerud

As a trainer, Nerud developed Dr. Fager, the 1968 Horse of the Year and considered among the greatest Thoroughbreds of all time; Ta Wee, a sister of Dr. Fager, a champion, and one of the great weight-carrying female sprinters; Gallant Man, who set a track record winning the 1957 Belmont Stakes; and Dr. Patches, a co-champion sprinter.

Nerud trained Dr. Fager, Ta Wee, and Dr. Patches, among others, for his primary patron, Tartan Farms, the racing stable of 3M owner and chairman, William L. McKnight. Nerud retired from training in 1978 after a career that lasted 44 years.

Though Nerud never trained a Kentucky Derby winner -- he came close when Bill Shoemaker stood up in the saddle on Gallant Man and was narrowly beaten in the 1957 Derby -- he arranged the breeding of 1990 winner Unbridled for Tartan Farms.

Nerud bred and owned Cozzene, the turf champion and Breeders’ Cup Mile winner in 1985. He also owned and bred Fappiano, a winner of the Metropolitan Mile and Forego who went on to become an influential sire. Fappiano traces to Triple Crown winner American Pharoah through Unbridled, Empire Maker, and Pioneerof the Nile.

Among the proteges Nerud helped along was a former Quarter Horse trainer he took a liking to named D. Wayne Lukas. Nerud gave Lukas one of his first big breaks when he put Tartan Farms's Codex in his barn. Lukas proved himself by winning the 1980 Preakness with Codex.

Hovdey: Nerud’s fingerprints all over American Pharoah (June 11, 2015)

Hovdey: A 102-year-old with a nice 3-year-old (Jan. 28, 2015)

Jay Hovdey: Kentucky Derby prospects have Nerud's fingerprints (Feb. 7, 2014)

Nerud's 100th birthday: Looking back on a proud career (Feb. 7, 2013)

Dr. Fager: The horse, the name, the stuff of legend (Feb. 7, 2013)

Jay Hovdey: John Nerud - 100 years, lived substantively (Feb. 8, 2013)

Hovdey: Nearly 99, Nerud still looks ahead (Feb. 3, 2012)

Hovdey: Nerud made his greatest mark in New York (Sept. 18, 2006)