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Catching up with Clarence Scharbauer
Clarence Scharbauer Jr. has been adding to his highlight reel the past month. The man behind Alysheba celebrated his 88th birthday on July 6 with a stakes win at Lone Star Park. A few weeks earlier, he accounted for his first Churchill Downs stakes win in 25 years when homebred Fiftyshadesofgold romped in the $113,400 Debutante Stakes.
Fiftyshadesofgold is emerging as one of the top 2-year-old fillies in the country. She humbled her competition in the Debutante on June 22, one start after a blowout maiden special weight win at Lone Star. Scharbauer is looking forward to the next start for Fiftyshadesofgold, who is being pointed for the Grade 2, $200,000 Adirondack at Saratoga on Aug. 11.
“I’m really thankful to the Lord for giving me this filly late in life,” Scharbauer said from his Midland, Texas, home on July 6. “The way she ran at Lone Star, won by 10, then goes up there and beats some pretty good fillies, won by eight, I think you’d have to say she’s something special.”
Horses have been a part of Scharbauer’s life since childhood. A rancher, oilman, and philanthropist, Scharbauer said his family came to Texas in the 1880s. Their holdings grew to include some 500,000 acres in Texas and parts of New Mexico. Scharbauer said the operations have focused on raising horses, cattle, and sheep.
“He’s a cattleman, but he’s also a serious cowboy,” said Ken Carson, who has worked for Scharbauer for 29 years and serves as general manager of his Valor Farm in the north Texas town of Pilot Point. “He can do anything on horseback. He was a world-class calf roper when he was young. He’s a heck of a horseman. He can walk around a horse and tell you everything about him. He’s a seriously good horseman.”
Scharbauer’s earliest racing pursuits came in the 1950s with Quarter Horses. He had a handful of champions, bred the top-class Marion’s Girl, and was voted president of the American Quarter Horse Association in 1975. Scharbauer said he delved into Thoroughbred racing at the request of his wife, Dorothy, who died in 2005.
“My wife’s family won the Kentucky Derby in 1959, with Tomy Lee,” Scharbauer said. “We went to Keeneland in 1985. The first five we bought, four of them were stakes winners, and one was stakes-placed.”
The 1985 group included a yearling son of Alydar that would be named Alysheba.
“He went for $500,000, and all the other Alydars were going for a million, a million and a half,” said Jack Van Berg, the Hall of Famer who trained Alysheba. “He stood out, but he was in his everyday clothes.”
Alysheba, who raced for Dorothy and the Scharbauers’ daughter, Pam, would go on to win the 1987 Kentucky Derby, fulfilling a longtime hope of Dorothy’s. He was champion 3-year-old male that season and in 1988 was voted Horse of the Year after a campaign topped by a win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, the last Scharbauer family stakes victory at Churchill prior to Fiftyshadesofgold. Alysheba, who retired with then-record earnings of $6,679,242, died in 2009. He was inducted into the Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 1993.
“You get one of them in a lifetime,” Scharbauer said.
Van Berg said he came to train for the Scharbauers after being recommended by the late Dr. William Lockridge, who knew the family through Carson. In the first few groups of yearlings the Scharbauers bought were Alysheba, Exclusive Enough, Penasco, Ridge Review, and Stalwart Sal.
“The Scharbauers, they loved their horses,” Van Berg said. “Mrs. Scharbauer fed Alysheba mints every time they’d come to the barn. He’d nicker for Mrs. Scharbauer.”
Fiftyshadesofgold is from the same female family as Alysheba. Her fourth dam is Bel Sheba, the dam of Alysheba. Her third dam is Alysbelle, a full sister to Alysheba that Scharbauer bought as a yearling and raced. Also trained by Van Berg, Alysbelle won the 1993 Grade 2 La Canada at Santa Anita and earned $355,875.
“We bought her at Keeneland, in 1990,” said Carson, who in June was elected president of the Texas Thoroughbred Association. “From the moment the catalog came out that year, Clarence kept telling me about that filly. He said, ‘Ken, she’s the only full sister to Alysheba, and there’ll never be another one.’ So it was a huge deal to him. There was no question in my mind that when we left there we would own that filly.”
Alysbelle ended up producing the filly Cats Meow, whose daughter Hadif Cat is the dam of Fiftyshadesofgold. Fiftyshadesofgold is a Texas-bred by the Unbridled’s Song stallion My Golden Song, who stands at Valor Farm.
“I bred her mother, bought her daddy,” Scharbauer said. “I raised all the family on the bottom. I’m not partial to any particular line, but I had to like the Alydar line a little bit. There was Alysbelle and I had another Alydar mare about the same age that was awful good, Jet Route.”
These days, Scharbauer has 16 broodmares, Carson said. He keeps about six horses in training, among them Coyote Legend, the reigning Texas-bred horse of the year who surpassed $700,000 in earnings on July 6 when he won the $50,000 Assault Stakes at Lone Star.
Scharbauer also stands seven stallions, including Early Flyer, whose offspring swept the first three spots in the $100,000 colts and geldings division of the Texas Thoroughbred Association Sales Futurity, also on July 6. Scharbauer bred all three runners, and races third-place finisher Check Ride. Early Flyer was the leading freshman sire in Texas in 2007, one of six stallions to earn that honor for Scharbauer since Hadif in 1995, according to the Texas Thoroughbred Association.
“Mr. Scharbauer and Valor Farm, they’ve been the heart and soul of Texas racing for a long time,” said Bret Calhoun, who trains both Fiftyshadesofgold and Coyote Legend. “They’ve supported it with the farm and good stallions, even in a tough market.”
Scharbauer was one of the first investors in Lone Star Park, said Corey Johnsen, the track’s first general manager and past president and now head of Kentucky Downs. Johnsen said that when the Texas Racing Commission was making the decision on which license application would be awarded the Class 1 track in north Texas, Scharbauer played a starring role at the meeting.
“The Lone Star group had decided Clarence Scharbauer would be their key spokesperson,” Johnsen said. “He’s a very effective, passionate speaker. Many people there that day said he was the main reason that the Lone Star Park group was selected.
“When I look back at the opening of Lone Star Park, there’s a handful of people that were extremely important in our development, and Clarence and Dorothy Scharbauer were right at the top of the list. I think everybody at Lone Star Park owes them a lot of gratitude for all their efforts and their tireless support.”
Clarence Scharbauer Jr.
Born: July 6, 1925, Midland, Tx.
Breeding operation: Valor Farm, a 393-acre showplace facility in North Texas, where he stands seven stallions including Crossbow, Early Flyer, My Golden Song, and Wimbledon
Top horses raced: Alysheba, Exclusive Enough, Stalwart Sal, Alysbelle, Ridge Review, Devious Course, Coyote Legend, Gold Coyote, Fiftyshadesofgold
Honors: Scharbauer is a member of the American Quarter Horse Association Hall of Fame, the Texas Horse Racing Hall of Fame, and he received the famed National Golden Spur Award, or national rancher of the year, in 1991; honored with the Texas Thoroughbred Association’s lifetime achievement award in 2007