"So where did you say you have horses?" the fellow asks. "In California?"
"Yeah, and Kentucky, Arkansas, New York and New Orleans."
"But you've never won the big one, right?"
"Well, yes I did," says Van Berg. "Last year."
Lord knows it took awhile, but it's worth waiting for an Alysheba. Some trainers work a lifetime and never have a horse like that. Van Berg never tires of talking about Alysheba's Kentucky Derby. "Hell, he was four miles the best horse," he says. "Fifty jumps out of the gate he got turned sideways, then [jockey Chris] McCarron had to snatch him clear, then he circled the field and run clear around the goddam outside of everybody, clipped to his knees at the eighth pole, gets back up and has to move twice more out and he still wins. No horse in history ever overcome that."
Although he has 14 horses nominated to the Triple Crown races this year, his only decent shot is with a Northern Dancer colt named Din's Dancer, who goes in the Arkansas Derby on April 23. Din's Dancer hasn't won many races, but neither had Alysheba at this time last year.
Van Berg's flight to Los Angeles finally takes off at 2 a.m. He goes immediately to sleep. He'll need it. It's gonna be a busy week.