04/09/2014 6:10PM

Namesake of Dr. Fager dies at age 90


Dr. Charles Fager, the namesake of the one of the greatest racehorses of all time, died Tuesday at his home in Burlington, Mass., at the age of 90, according to an announcement from his family.

In the mid-1960s, Fager was credited with saving the life of John Nerud by operating on a subdural hematoma the trainer had suffered after falling from a horse. After two surgeries to stanch bleeding from the injury and repair Nerud’s skull, the trainer promised Fager that he would name a horse after him. Working for Tartan Farms at the time, Nerud selected a yearling by Rough’n Tumble out of Aspidistra for the name.

Trained by Nerud, the horse Dr. Fager would go on to win 18 of 22 starts, earn more than $1 million, and be named 1968 Horse of the Year. Nerud called Dr. Fager “the fastest horse I ever saw.” The horse ran during one of racing’s greatest eras, among a generation that included Kelso, Damascus, Buckpasser, and Arts and Letters.

Fager was known as one of the preeminent neurosurgeons of his time. The doctor was paired with Nerud after the trainer’s wife, Charlotte, noticed in the weeks following her husband’s accident that he was acting lethargic and inattentive, according to an account of the story written by Daily Racing Form’s Jay Hovdey. Charlotte Nerud determined that the clinic employing Fager was one of the best in the United States and insisted that her husband get checked out there.

Fager and his family kept close tabs on the horse and stayed in contact with Nerud throughout his career. A son of Fager, Jeff Fager, worked for Nerud in his barn for a brief time. Jeff Fager is now the chairman of CBS News.

Fager wrote a memoir about Nerud and the horse, published in 2004 and entitled “A Hole in the Wind – The Story of a Man and his Horse.”