By Sean Feld
I did not know Ed Nahem personally, but when I read that he had died Oct. 31 of liver failure it brought back many memories of one of my favorite horses.
As a toddler I would watch replays of Breeders’ Cup races while most kids my age were glued to “Sesame Street.” At 5, I graduated to the nightly Southern California race-replay show and kept track of the jockey standings. Along the way, I became a huge fan of Bertrando.Bertrando was bred by and owned in part by Nahem, who, at the time of his death, raced under the nom de course King Edward. A California-bred like myself, Bertrando was by Skywalker out of the Buffalo Lark mare Gentle Hands. Skywalker was a Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) winner, and Gentle Hands, a half-sister to Sean’s Pride, was a filly Nahem had acquired in a claiming race.
Nahem often named the horses he bred after friends, so when he raised a horse of such top quality, he honored Bertrand Hug, whose bistro, Mille Fleurs, in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., was a frequent Nahem hangout during every Del Mar meeting for the last two decades.
I was able to watch Bertrando run at Santa Anita in person a few times, but I viewed most of his races on television because my mom didn’t think a 6-year-old should be hanging out at the track every weekend with my dad, my uncles, and my grandfathers. It was painful to miss some of those big races, especially the ones Bertrando would win, but the main thing to me was watching him run.
Wagering wasn’t an issue in those days, but I have since cashed many a ticket on Bertrando’s sons and daughters to make up for the time lost with my favorite horse.
Bertrando impressed me with his consistent speed and his ability to carry it. He always looked so sharp out on the lead, the crisp blue and white striped silks of Marshall Naify’s 505 Farms, one of Nahem’s partners, the perfect fashion accessory for the colt’s dark bay coat.
In 1993, the Breeders’ Cup was held at Santa Anita, just a few furlongs from my house. I begged my mom to let me go because I wanted to watch Bertrando win the Classic. Unfortunately, I ended up watching at my grandma’s house while Jerry Bailey and Arcangues ran him and Gary Stevens down, amazed when the toteboard lit up the $269.20 payoff.
I was crushed. Even as a 6-year-old I was thinking to myself, “Why did they even run Arcangues? He had no shot. He is a turf horse from France and was 133-1!”
At a post-race party after the Breeders’ Cup, I was still upset that my favorite horse had gotten beat at the wire by this French interloper. Someone at the party noticed my long face and called Nahem to see if he would talk to me and try to cheer me up. I’ll never forget that conversation—commiserating with the owner of my favorite horse.
He said, “Hi, Sean. I hear you are mad that Bertrando got beat.”
I said, “Yeah, he was going to win and then that dumb longshot caught him at the wire!”
He said, “Don’t worry, Sean. He will be in the Classic next year and hopefully stay in front the whole race.”
I said, “Yeah, I hope you are right.”
Mr. Nahem was half-right, Bertrando did run in the 1994 Breeders’ Cup Classic, but unfortunately he finished sixth.
Bertrando retired in 1995 and was sent to stud at River Edge Farm near Buellton, Calif. He has sired many stakes winners during his career as a stallion, but he had a banner day Nov. 3 at the Cal Cup program at Oak Tree at Santa Anita just a few days after his breeder and owner passed away.
Gentle Charmer won the California Cup Distaff, and Sierra Sunset captured the California Cup Juvenile, but it was Nahem’s own Bilo, who won the California Cup Sprint, whose victory will join my memory with those of his sire.
Like Bertrando, Bilo was bred and owned by Nahem. Like father, like son, Bilo made the early lead in the Sprint, but unlike his sire in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Bilo stayed in front and did not yield in the shadow of the wire. You couldn’t help but think Nahem was looking down on the proceedings with that huge, impish grin of his.
Thanks for the memories, King Edward, and for my all-time favorite Cal-bred, Bertrando.
Sean Feld is a junior at the University of Kentucky studying agricultural economics.