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Beyond the Game: Tom Van Berg follows in late father's footsteps at Oaklawn

Tom Van Berg (KATV photo)

Even after Jack Van Berg's passing, the infamous purple and gold "Van Berg Stables" sign is still hung prominently. Only now, it's his son, Tom, in charge of the family business at Oaklawn.

"It's not a job. It's your career. It's your life," Tom said.

Jack, who was profiled in this April, 2017 Beyond the Game story, won the 1987 Kentucky Derby with Alysheba. He was inducted into the National Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 1985. He died December 27.

"I don't know if it's really hit me yet that Dad isn't going to be here. The hardest part is the drives, going back and forth to Kentucky. You get time to think, you want to pick up the phone to call him, and you can't."

Tom was raised around racing. He stepped away from the family business for 10 years, however, while his son battled leukemia. When his father's health took a turn for the worst he stepped back in.

Tom saddled his first starter in a decade on January 12, four days after Jack's memorial service. Would you believe, the horse, aptly named "Profound Moment," won.

"I think [Dad] rode that mare home, I really do," Tom said.

"If there's ever a movie that's written about his book or his life, that's the perfect ending. That's the last screen shot, is that filly coming home, that mare coming home."

"Hopefully we can continue like Dad would have.

"I'm sure he's yelling at us, screaming at us his instructions. We're trying to keep it operating the same way he would have operated it if he were here."

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