03/17/2010 12:00AM

Van Berg to train Thistledown string

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Hall of Fame trainer Jack Van Berg will have a string of 16 horses this year at Thistledown.

With 6,395 winners, Van Berg, 73, is the second-winningest trainer in North American history, behind the late Dale Baird. In 1987 he became the first U.S. trainer to win 5,000 career races. In 1976, he saddled 496 winners, a record that stood for 28 years before being broken by Steve Asmussen, who sent out 555 horses to win in 2004. Van Berg's best horse was Alysheba, the 1988 Horse of the Year who earned more than $6.6 million.

"I'm going to be training for Steve Belford," said Van Berg, who is currently based at Santa Anita. "He's got a helluva set of young horses. I'll probably complement that with some of my California horses and others that I hope to claim in Kentucky."

Belford has bred and raced horses on the Ohio-Kentucky circuit for more than 20 years and owns the Lake View Training Center in Mount Gilead, near Columbus, Ohio.

"He was very impressed with the layout," Belford said. "I have a six-furlong training track that is made up of the same material as found in Thistledown's surface, which is considered one of the best in the country."

By basing at Thistledown, Van Berg will be able to choose from many races at several tracks. Thistledown, near Cleveland, is located within a two-hour drive of Presque Isle Downs and Mountaineer Park, both of which offer attractive purses fueled by casino revenue.

Thistledown opened its stable area Wednesday, and training will be begin Monday for the upcoming meet, which begins April 23 and continues through Nov. 3.

* J.J. Moran, who trained horses here for more than 20 years, died last week at age 70.

He is the father of former Thistledown leading rider, Mike Moran, and Corey Moran, a longtime jockey agent.