05/22/2013 2:30PM

Louisiana Downs: Van Berg comes back to warm wlecome


BOSSIER CITY, La. – Trainer Jack Van Berg spent Preakness Day at Louisiana Downs, which was fitting as Van Berg’s two Preakness winners, Gate Dancer in 1984 and Alysheba in 1987, each also won this track’s premier event, the Super Derby.

In addition to his Super Derby successes, Van Berg was a major force in the overnight ranks here at Louisiana Downs. He sent sizeable strings here in the 80’s and early 90’s, annually finishing in the top 10 in the trainer standings.

“It’s good to be back,” said Van Berg in his trademark growl as he strolled through the Louisiana Downs racing office Saturday morning. The Hall of Famer could scarcely take a step before stopping to shake the hand of one old friend or acquaintance after another.

Van Berg was in town to visit his sister, who lives nearby, and to promote his new biography, “JACK, From Grit to Glory,” by Chris Kotulak. He has been on an informal book tour since the book’s release in April. Recent stops included Churchill Downs during Kentucky Derby week and Omaha in Van Berg’s home state of Nebraska.

“Omaha was great,” Van Berg said. “I got to see a lot of folks I haven’t seen in a while, plus we sold a lot of books.”

“Jack is almost counterproductive when he does these signings,” joked Kotulak. “Everybody, and I literally mean everybody, who comes up to get a book has a Van Berg story and wants to share it. Even if we average one signing a minute, sometimes it takes a while to get through the line. The sheer number of people he has influenced over the years is truly remarkable.”

Kotulak, also a Nebraska native, has worn several hats over the years, including the one of track announcer at Louisiana Downs in the late mid- to late-90’s. He grew up closely following Van Berg’s career at the old Ak-Sar-Ben racetrack. He currently works in the media department at Remington Park in Oklahoma City.

“This whole project has been very rewarding, very humbling,” he said. “The positive response has been nothing short of overwhelming at times.”

Copies of “JACK, From Grit to Glory,” are available at jackfromgrittoglory.com.

Roberts recovering

Trainer Stanley Roberts is on the mend following an injury he sustained while saddling in the Louisiana Downs paddock last Thursday. Roberts fractured the C-1 vertebrae in his neck in two places after he was stuck when Ollie Baby flipped in his stall.

“The last thing I remember was tightening the girth,” Roberts said. He was dragged out of the stall and avoided further injury by action from alert bystanders. The injury will not require surgery according to Roberts, although he will be required to wear a neck brace for six to eight weeks.

◗ As part of the special Memorial Day card, Louisiana Downs will hold an ostrich race and a camel race during the afternoon’s nine-race program.

“The animals will be on display Sunday and then we’ll have the races on Monday,” says track announcer and mutuel manager Travis Stone. “It should be a lot of run.

“We won’t be taking any bets on them, however.”

◗ Apprentice jockey Brandon Menard will be out indefinitely after suffering neck and back injuries in a spill in last Wednesday’s eighth race at Evangeline Downs. Menard was on board Choo Choo Larue in a five-furlong turf sprint when his mount fell nearing the quarter pole, throwing Menard to the ground.

◗ Longtime Louisiana horseman Charles “CD” Delahoussaye died last Saturday. He was 80.

Delahoussaye was a regular on the southern Louisiana circuit, including the old Jefferson Downs in the New Orleans suburb of Kenner.