01/11/2007 1:00AM

Nerud to get Award of Merit


John Nerud, the Hall of Fame trainer and racing industry leader, has been selected to receive the Eclipse Award of Merit, considered the sport's highest honor, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association announced Thursday.

Nerud, 93, was inducted into racing's Hall of Fame in 1972, four years after one of his charges, Dr. Fager, won an unprecedented four Eclipse Awards - champion sprinter, turf horse, handicap horse, and the Horse of the Year - in one year. Born in 1913, Nerud took out his training license as an 18-year-old and retired in 1978 after training five champions.

In the early 1980's, Nerud was instrumental in getting the Breeders' Cup off the ground, helping fellow horseman John Gaines sell the idea of a series of season-ending races held on one day.

Nerud was also the president and general manager of William McKnight's Tartan Farms in Ocala, Fla., developing the farm's broodmare band and managing its stallions. Included in Tartan's stallions during Nerud's years were Intentionally and In Reality, two of Florida's most influential sires.

Nerud will receive the award on Jan. 22 at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel in California.