04/04/2011 11:38PM

Springtime at Louisiana's Clear Creek Stud

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Above:  Clear Creek Stud entry sign, 'Welcome' at the office entrance, breeding shed, training track starting gate.

“Clients and visitors are always welcome!”

So reads the farm's website, and those are more than just words.  Even the exclamation point is genuine. Of all the farms I’ve visited over the decades, I’ve never felt more welcomed than at Clear Creek Stud in Folsom, LA.

Considered by many to be Louisiana’s premiere Thoroughbred operation, the farm opened in 1969. Current owner/manager Val Murrell, as good a horseman as you could hope to find, has been onboard nearly 35 years. He speaks quietly and thoughtfully, with a engaging smile and rich Louisiana accent.

Above:  The farm colors of white and orange are well represented on the farm.  Even the buckets, and some of the barn cats, are orange.  How great are the ears on the friendly kitty on the right, below?  I'd never seen a cat with pointy ear tufts.  

Above:  Various Clear Creek Stud farm scenes, including the stallion Ide (above left).  Below:  Other farm scenes, including the stallion barn (below left, with orange doors) equine swimming center (second row below, left) and stallion Half Ours (second row below, grey).

I first visited a decade ago to photograph the stallion Zuppardo’s Prince, Louisiana’s leading sire an amazing ten times, for the book Old Friends. I returned in 2003 to photograph several more stallions, including Zuppardo. And after that all-day shoot, Val and a group of employees took me to dinner. Good food, laughter and conversation melted the day’s efforts away.

In 2006, it was time to see the well-bred new arrival Ford Every Stream...and, of course, I also spent time with my now very old friend Zuppardo, who was 30.

It’s been five years since my travels led me to Clear Creek but, lured by the Louisiana Derby, I stopped in last Sunday. If there’s a day to tests the exclamation point in “clients and visitors are always welcome!”, it’s a Sunday. Yet Val and his daughter Michelle Murrell LaVoice, a natural horsewoman and now farm manager, were – as always – remarkably generous and warm with me.  

It's as if visitors are more than just visitors - they are family.  They even call me, "Miss Barbara," which always feels so respectful and thoughtful.  

Above:  Zuppardo's Prince, one of Louisiana's all-time great sires.  At age 30 (left) and kicking up his hooves at age 27 (right).

Above:  Three of the current Clear Creek stallions.  Ole Rebel (top row), Ide (lower left), Half Ours (grey).  The roster includes B.J.'s Mark, Costa Rising, Doctor Mike, Ford Every Stream, Half Ours, Ide, Lion Tamer, Ole Rebel and Porto Foricos.

Spring is such a busy time, and fuzzy foals peeked from behind their moms as stallions awaited their next date. The stallions’ stalls allowed them to move freely in or outdoors, but most stayed indoors on this warm day. A few ventured out.

Half Ours, a filled-out, richly dappled grey, looked magnificent wandering contentedly around his spacious paddock. Ide, the 2009 Louisiana stallion of the year, ever handsome with his bright chestnut coat, blazed face and stockings, stood quietly in a far corner near a neighboring paddock. Ole Rebel, a Carson City stallion whose first crop are 4 this year, jogged around his confines. B.J.’s Mark, a three-time track record setting sprinter, grazed peacefully. And Afternoon Deelites, newly pensioned and soon headed for Old Friends in Kentucky, was a glossy picture of health as Michelle led him out for a few photos.

Near the stallion barns, nestled in a scenic grove of trees, Zuppardo’s Prince rests near a gravestone and two rose bushes. He has not been forgotten. The farm website maintains a page in his honor that includes these words:

We are thankful to this horse - he put us on the map and we are very proud of him… Zuppardo’s Prince died August 24, 2007 at age 31. We miss him and we thank him.

Should your travels take you to Louisiana, be sure to stop in at Clear Creek Stud. You’ll be welcomed.

Above:  Afternoon Deelites (1992 dk.b./br. h. by Private Terms - Intimate Girl, by Medaille d'Or).  Below:  Stallion cemetery - and the gravestones of Bayou Hebert, Gran Zar, Autocracy, Assagai, Gushing Wind and Zuppardo's Prince.

New arrivals at the farm for 2011 below....

Below:  Takeaway, 2005 Washington broodmare of the year, is the dam of the bay Pioneerof the Nile colt above, who checks out a 2011 Half Ours - Lynn Cara Lassie filly.

Below, clockwise from top left:  Lion Tamer - Flirt's Shadow filly; Not for Love - Hottamolly (SW) colt; Ide - Barneys Teddybear filly; Bernstein - Zaafira filly (Zaafira, bred by Darley, is by A.P. Indy - Outstandingly).

Above:  Pioneerof the Nile - Takeaway colt; My Pal Charlie - D'oro Doll filly; Idebeasuperstar, colt by Ide - Superlative Star.  Below, right:  Half Ours - Late Encounter filly.  This is stakes winner Late Encounter's second foal.  Bottom photo:  The adorable Lion Tamer - Flirt's Shadow filly enjoys a refill...  

Happy spring!

 

The farm website, which features their history, many stallions and services: www.clearcreekstud.com