Documentary heads for home stretch

SCOTTSBLUFF — As their 2019 release date approaches, the crew of the upcoming documentary “Born to Rein” will be in the area the week of July 16 to complete the filming phase of the project.

The documentary is about the horse racing industry, in which Nebraska played a prominent role. Two featured players were father and son Marion and Jack Van Berg of Grand Island and Minatare native John Nerud.

Jody Lamp and Melody Dobson are the film’s producers. Lamp said they’re working with their partners to determine the best times to screen the film leading up to the 2019 Triple Crown races.

The producers continue to sign up partners for the project. The latest is Ashland, Nebraska, which in the early 1950s was proclaimed the horse racing capital of Nebraska by Omaha World-Herald.

“We feel it’s important for us to build these partnerships across the state because this is a Nebraska story,” Lamp said. “It’s a story that’s virtually gone untold. Many Nebraskans have never heard about these men and the major impact they had on the horse racing industry. I’m still taken aback by the amount of respect people in the industry still have for them.”

Marion and Jack Van Berg of Grand Island were trainers that were instrumental in the continuing development of the horse racing industry, both in Nebraska and around the nation.

Marion Van Berg won nearly 1,500 races and trained some 4,691 horses. He was the first inductee into the Nebraska Racing Hall of Fame.

Son Jack’s career as a trainer spanned 60 years and some of his horses won the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Breeders Cup.

John Nerud was also an accomplished and revered thoroughbred horse trainer and breeder.

A 1931 Minatare graduate, Nerud started as a jockey, eventually becoming known throughout the industry as a breeder and trainer. In the 1950s, his work in Florida was the foundation that led to one of the state’s premiere horse breeding farms.

Dobson and Lamp were at Churchill Downs in Louisville earlier this year to film during the week of the Kentucky Derby. While there, they were interviewed by national Sirius XM radio host Steve Byk of “At the Races.” They were also joined by their friend Steve Haskin, a senior correspondent with Blood-Horse Magazine.

“We were so well-received by top trainers, jockeys and industry leaders,” Lamp said. “All we had to say is that we're doing a documentary on John Nerud and the Van Bergs. They were all more than happy to visit with us and spoke so highly of these men and how important they were to people’s careers.”

One of those men that offered accolades and respect was trainer Bob Baffert, who earlier this year won his second Triple Crown with his horse, Justify.

Lamp said at the end of each interview, they’d ask each interviewee what they thought was the most important thing Nebraskans should know about John Nerud and the Van Bergs.

Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas said those men were to the thoroughbred horse racing industry what Tom Osborne was to the state’s football program.

“The whole derby week was filled with the top men and women in the horse racing industry,” Lamp said. “The legacy left by John Nerud and the Van Bergs is still very much alive in their circles.”

Jody Lamp