(Originally published in the February 25, 2012 issue of The
Blood-Horse magazine. Feel free to share your own thoughts and
the bottom of the column.)
Ask Thoroughbred breeder/owner Harvey Clarke how long he’s been involved in the industry, and he’ll answer with one word: “forever.”
“My theory is that it’s a virus for which there’s no cure,” said Clarke, 70, who bought his first horse in the early 1970s. “I’m not a big gambler, but I love being around the horses. I like the smell of them, the look of them, and the feel of them. I still get a kick out of it.”
Understandably so, as the Englewood, N.J., native has been represented as an owner (alone or in partnership) by such graded stakes victors as Krypton, Eye of Taurus, and Soldat. Most recently he has achieved success as the breeder of I’ll Have Another, winner of the Feb. 4 Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita Park.
Although Clarke no longer owns I’ll Have Another, watching the 3-year-old son of Flower Alley run is still thrilling. Now a legitimate contender on the Triple Crown trail, I’ll Have Another broke his maiden last summer at Hollywood Park and finished second in the Best Pal Stakes (gr. II) at Del Mar. He has earned $184,000 from his four career starts.
“I’m glad for the people that ended up with him,” said Clarke of I’ll Have Another’s owner J. Paul Reddam and trainer Doug O’Neill. “You can’t cringe (when the ones you sell do well). You have to sell a few to be able to survive in this business.”
Luckily, Clarke still owns I’ll Have Another’s dam, Arch’s Gal Edith, as well as two of her offspring—$100,000-plus earner Those Wer the Days, a 5-year-old son of Thunder Gulch; and a 2-year-old Tapit filly, who is in the early training stages.
Arch’s Gal Edith, who slipped a foal this year but is booked to Midnight Lute, is boarded along with nine of Clarke’s other mares at Fred Seitz’ Brookdale Farm near Versailles, Ky.
Over the years Clarke and Seitz have teamed to race stakes winners Exotic Bloom, May Night, and Act of God (in partnership with others).
Clarke, who has eight horses in training with Kiaran McLaughlin, said after racing horses for so long, delving into the breeding industry was a natural progression.
When planning matings, Clarke considers stallions in the $10,000-$35,000 range and consults with bloodstock agent Steve Shahinian as well as Seitz.
“We try and figure out what makes sense and once in a while we get lucky,” said Clarke, who decided to mate Arch’s Gal Edith with relatively new stallion Flower Alley because he thought it could produce a two-turn horse.
The resulting foal, I’ll Have Another, was slightly underdeveloped when Brookdale consigned him to the 2010 Keeneland September yearling sale.
“He was a little immature as a yearling and light-framed,” remembered Seitz’ son, Freddy. “He was always a good mover and correct, and he blossomed the most at the end of the sales prep season. There was nothing ever really wrong with the horse—he just took a little longer to come around than most yearlings.”
Victor Davila purchased I’ll Have Another for just $11,000, and the colt wound up in Eisaman Equine’s consignment at the 2011 Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. spring sale of 2-year-olds in training.
“Steve looked at him as a 2-year-old and said, ‘I think we maybe made a mistake’ (in selling I’ll Have Another),” said Clarke. But in spite of Shahinian’s intuition, Clarke didn’t buy the colt back at OBS.
“I had sold him once, and I figured I’d just let him go,” Clarke said. I’ll Have Another was bought by Doug O’Neill’s brother Dennis for $35,000.
Although Clarke has been involved in the industry for decades, two of his biggest highlights have occurred within the last two years. Before I’ll Have Another’s career took off, Soldat, whom Clarke races in partnership with Craig Robertson, Paul Braverman, and Namcook Stable, took him on a thrilling ride that culminated with a start in the 2011 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
Soldat’s Derby attempt didn’t go as well as Clarke had hoped (he finished 11th), but the son of War Front earned his keep prior to that by scoring victories in the Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) and the 2010 With Anticipation Stakes (gr. IIIT) and placing second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. IIT) and the Pilgrim Stakes (gr. IIIT).
Clarke’s family, which includes his wife, Donna, and five children, are mainly horse racing fans rather than industry participants. But one son, Scott, does get involved in naming his father’s horses. He named Soldat after the French word for soldier.
“Soldat is in training, and we’re looking for a race,” said Clarke. The colt has had an extended layoff since the Derby but has been working steadily at Palm Meadows in Florida this winter.
Despite Clarke’s obvious dedication to the industry and the care he puts into his breeding and racing decisions, he credits others for cultivating his love for the game.
“I just write the checks, and if it wasn’t for guys like Kiaran McLaughlin, who trains for me; Darin Lamoureux, who breaks the 2-year-olds; and Steve Shahinian, it wouldn’t be nearly as much fun,” he said.