No award given to John Nerud could be more appropriately named than the Award of Merit. Webster defines the word merit as, “Something deserving reward, praise, or gratitude,” and it is now time for racing to reward and praise Nerud for his countless contributions to the sport, and to show its gratitude for his revolutionizing the industry.
As a trainer, owner, breeder, and developer of the powerful Tartan Farm, Nerud gave us the legendary Dr. Fager, the great Gallant Man, champions Unbridled, Ta Wee, and Cozzene, and the top-class racehorse and leading sire Fappiano. He also helped put the Florida breeding industry on the map. As one of the founding fathers of the Breeders’ Cup and its driving force in the early years as head of the marketing committee, he was instrumental in changing the face of racing.
A plaque hanging in the den of his home says it all: “John Nerud—Breeders’ Cup Marketing Committee
chairman; Executive Committee; Track Selection Committee; Field Selection Committee; Nominating Committee; Fee Review Committee.”
John Nerud was the Breeders’ Cup. To further demonstrate his impact on the event, he owned and bred 1985 Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. IT) winner Cozzene, who went on to sire 1994 Turf (gr. IT) winner Tikkanen and 1996 Classic (gr. I) winner Alphabet Soup, making Cozzene the first Breeders’ Cup winner to sire two Breeders’ Cup winners, and the only stallion to this day to sire the winners of the two richest Breeders’ Cup races.
Nerud also discovered and helped launch the careers of Hall of Fame trainers D. Wayne Lukas and Scotty Schulhofer.
Now, at age 93, Nerud finally will be recognized for his genius, the likes of which this sport has never seen. Despite his age, Nerud still is sharp as ever, and possesses a vast repertoire of profound, witty, and insightful comments on every aspect of Thoroughbred racing. And when Nerud speaks, people listen.
From the time he started riding rodeos in Mitchell, Neb., at age 13, Nerud has had the ability to absorb knowledge and command the attention of others.
(Article appears in the January 27, 2007 issue of The Blood-Horse)