Updated on 09/17/2011 5:54PM

Clagett shows generations of class


Anyone interested in Maryland history - both human and equine, and specifically for southern Maryland - can find a wellspring in the form of Hal C.B. Clagett. An esteemed member of Maryland's breeding community since the early 1950's and a horseman his entire life, Clagett, who will turn 88 on Nov. 22, lives full-speed ahead, but always finds the time to recall a lifetime of memories.

The victory of juvenile filly Golden Malibu in the Heavenly Cause Stakes at Pimlico on Oct. 30 prompted numerous recollections from Clagett, who bred the filly in partnership with his wife of nearly 10 years, the former Jeanne Begg.

One of Clagett's signatures is in naming his horses by combining one word from the sire's name and one from the dam's, and he can rifle off with amazing recall the pedigrees of generations of his runners. Golden Malibu (by Malibu Moon out of Golden Press) is a fourth-generation descendant of Golden Bullet, who was purchased by Clagett as a yearling from the estate of Christopher T. Chenery.

"We had high expectations for Golden Malibu in the Heavenly Cause," said Clagett, "but were surprised others thought so too. The result was quite heavenly."

Golden Malibu was the odds-on choice in the Heavenly Cause's field of six, coming into the race off a third-place finish in the Maryland Million Lassie, in which she was nearly 40-1. In the Heavenly Cause, Golden Malibu bided her time before taking command of the six-furlong race midway down the stretch and drawing off to win by 1 1/2 lengths. Plans are to send Golden Malibu to the Toddler Stakes on Dec. 4, with the main goal the Maryland Juvenile Filly Championship Stakes on Dec. 30, a race won by Clagett with Assault John in 1996.

Golden Malibu is the first homebred stakes winner to campaign for the Clagetts since 2000, when their mare Silent Valay captured two stakes, including the $125,000 Straight Deal Breeders' Cup Handicap. Silent Valay, also a descendant of Golden Bullet, is now a member of the Clagetts' broodmare band at Roedown Farm in Davidsonville.

Clagett's roots run deep in southern Maryland soil, and he lived for many year's at his ancestral home of Weston in Upper Marlboro, which has been in the Clagett family for 10 consecutive generations. Upon his most recent marriage, Clagett moved to Roedown, the farm owned by his wife, Jeanne, and turned Weston over to his son, Hal Clagett III.

During the move, Clagett divided his horse and cattle holdings with his son, and in 1999, in an attempt to cut back on his growing broodmare band, he sent a number of horses through the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic December mixed sale. Among those sold were Clagett's prized mare Silent Bullet, the dam of Silent Valay and additional stakes winners Amerrico's Bullet, Valay Bullet, and Bullet Valay. But, in addition to Silent Valay, Clagett still has Golden Malibu's 7-year-old dam, Golden Press, a winning daughter of Press Card out of Golden Alden (by John Alden out of a half-sister to Silent Bullet). Golden Press is currently in foal to Unbridled Jet, who stands at Country Life Farm, as have many of the stallions Clagett has bred to in the past two decades.

Clagett has every intention of retiring Golden Malibu to the farm in the future, and current plans for her winnings from the Heavenly Cause Stakes include an eye to future breeding seasons. Work is to be started in transforming an old silo attached to the broodmare barn into a circular foaling stall with an observation area. It is an idea Clagett has had since visiting Italy in the 1950's and seeing the great Ribot stabled in a circular stall.

"The design is such a safe way to avoid being cast," said Clagett.

A renowned lawyer who drafted the legislation behind the Maryland Fund, the innovative breeders' program implemented in 1962, Clagett has had a varied life, which included a distinguished military career as a pilot during World War II.

A former president of the Maryland Horse Breeders Association, Clagett will always be known as the breeder of millionaire Little Bold John, whom he sold as a 2-year-old. Although Clagett didn't reap the rewards of Little Bold John's racing career, he provided the gallant gelding, a winner of 25 stakes races, a home upon his retirement. That is the mark of a true sportsman and Southern gentleman.