Clarke just making the most of life

By Frank Marrion courtesy of the HarnessXpress

 A little over three years ago, Dunedin’s Garry Clarke lost his brother Rick to cancer and he decided it was time to make the most of what time he had left.

Clarke had just the one horse in American Spirit and after he’d won his fourth race at Forbury Park, trainer Darren Simpson recalls Clarke saying “you’d better get ready to go to the yearling sales”.

Little did Simpson know that Clarke would buy eight yearlings for $132,000, and six yearlings for $108,000the next year, and that he would now have 35 horses.

Simpson is now effectively Clarke’s private trainer and his last eight wins stretching back to July last year have been with horses owned by Clarke.

Simpson concedes he’s not sure he’d still be in the game if it wasn’t for Clarke – his entire racing teamof about a dozen horses at present are owned by him.

At best Simpson might still be struggling along winning a few races a season, as he had been doing since starting out in 2002.

Instead Simpson was seen winning his first race at Addington last Friday night with a two-year-old trotter in Have No Fear, a $32,000 purchase at the Premier last year.

Simpson and Clarke were also represented in the race by the Muscle Mass filly Abundance, who came in a credible fifth after losing ground at the start when going a bit rough.

They were two of three sales purchases last year and Clarke bought two more this year.

Clarke and Simpson drove to Addington that afternoon and headed back that night, with Makara, Parama and Rockin Road engaged at Wyndham the next day.

Havehorsewilltravel, Mach Sheer, Nikasa and Pete’s Dash have been other winners for Clarke and Simpson this season.

Havehorsewilltravel has been placed with Brent Mangos and has won three times for him this season, twice at Alexandra Park.

Simpson developed Pres The Belle and won seven races with her before she was handed over to the Dunns – she was basically too good for racing down south and travel was in the offing.

Have No Fear has some work to do to prove better than her, but he clearly has a very good future.

“He’s the most natural trotter I’ve had and has been from day one - he can’t be faulted really,” said Simpson.

“He’s well gaited and has good manners – very level headed.

“This is only the third time they’ve both been off the place and Abundance is improving with each run.

“Robert Anderson broke them in and they’re a credit to him.

“Garry had said last year he really wanted to buy a Father Patrick and Have No Fear was the last one. We just liked the look of Abundance.”

Abundance and Have No Fear trialed together at Wyndham back in early January and then had a few weeks off.

They reappeared for a three-horse trial at Oamaru a couple of weeks ago, where Simpson drove Have No Fear and didn’t push him in running Phil Williamson’s Love You-Sun Mist gelding Leaf Stride to half a head.

Last Friday night, Have No Fear led them around for Blair Orange and was comfortably holding Franco Jorik by three-quarters of a length, with the rest five lengths away and headed by the early mistake maker Alluring Tyron.

“We’ll get home now and map out a schedule, but I guess the Trotting Stakes (on April 11) might be next.”

The Sales race and Sires Stakes are on May 8 and 15.

Have No Fear is the latest winner from NZ Trotting Oaks winner Without Fear, a Sundon sister to Fear Factor, the dam of Prince Fearless and Stress Factor.

Most of Clarke’s initial purchases at the sales were pacers, but “we’re about half-and-half now”.

Simpson started out working for Murray Edmonds some 20 years ago and “learned a lot about trotters back then”.

“We had good juveniles like Flip Flop and Sun Del so I was quite comfortable when Garry said he was going to buy more trotters.”

Clarke began his working life as an apprentice boilermaker and had farms over the years before becoming a property developer, which he is pretty much retired from, aged 72.

“I’ve always like the horses and when we lost Rick, I realized life was too short to not be living it to the full.

“I like to be around the horses and I’ve got 70 acres at Hampden where they’re spelled with lots of room to move.”

Clarke helps out Simpson around the stables at Forbury Park and he’s also gravitated to breeding.

One of Clarke’s purchases at the sales in 2017 was Parama, a Bettor’s Delight colt from Nicky’s Ideal who cost $15,000.

He’d won four of 11 races before Wyndham, where he raced in the Cup.

Clarke also bought his sister Nikasa for $10,000 in 2018 and she won twice before a sale to Perth for about 10 times as much.

Clarke has since bought the Western Ideal mare Nicky’s Ideal and bred colts by Art Major and A Rocknroll Dance and a filly by Sweet Lou.

Clearly the game could do with a lot more Garry Clarke’s. - by Frank Marrion

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