06/27/2012 12:53PM

Woodbine: Clark calls it a career

Michael Burns
David Clark aboard Artic Fern, his final stakes winner, in the King Corrie last fall.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – For one of the few occasions over the last four decades, jockey David Clark was not in the jockeys’ room when the ran the Queen’s Plate here last Sunday.

There was a good reason, as Clark, at age 58, hung up his tack early this month.

But, in the quiet manner which has defined his career, there were no grand pronouncements of retirement, no parting shots, and his absence just gradually dawned on the racetrack community here.

“I just kind of woke up a couple of weeks ago and decided I didn’t want to go in to work,” said Clark. “So I phoned my agent, Steve Roberts, and told him.

“My body was just wearing down on me.”

Clark, born in England, began his career here in 1973 and won his first meet title at the Greenwood spring session in 1980 en route to finishing the season as Ontario’s second-leading rider with 158 wins.

In that era Clark was best- known as the go-to rider for the trainer Gordon Huntley, who was noted for his success with young horses. Huntley died in 1998, the same yearhe was inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame.

“It was fun,” said Clark. “Gordie was a great guy to work for, a great man and a great trainer.”

The association with Huntley earned Clark a reputation as a cool hand with 2-year-olds, which stayed with him for virtually the rest of his career.

“They kept saying that, but maybe it’s just because I was riding the best 2-year-olds,” said Clark.

Through the decades, Clark has proved to be a multidimensional rider with a highlight reel that few can match.

Clark won the Queen’s Plate in 1981 with Fiddle Dancer Boy and in 1985 with La Lorgnette. His first ride in the Queen’s Plate came in 1980 and his 21st, and last, in 2008.

He almost had another serious shot at the Queen’s Plate with Artic Fern, who was coming into the 2010 edition as one of the favorites only to be sidelined by injury.

Artic Fern, trained by Mike Keogh, went on to give Clark the final stakes win of his career here in last fall’s King Corrie.

That stakes win was No. 222 of Clark’s career, with 24 of those graded. He also finished second in 218 stakes races and third in 218 from 1,617 opportunities.

His graded stakes winners at Woodbine included Bay to Bay (2009 Natalma), Jiggs Cozz (2008 Dominion Day), Eccentric (2007 King Edward and Connaught Cup), Hide and Chic (2006 Seaway and Royal North), Rush Bay (2006 Nijinksy), Arravale (2005 Natalma), WIinter Garden (2004 Hendrie and 2003 Bessarabian); Nashinda (2005 Hendrie); Diadella (2001 Canadian), and Wake At Noon 2000 Highlander).

On the road, Clark captured the Grade 3 Chicago Breeders’ Cup Handicap with Saoirse in 2000 and Grade 2 Molly Pitcher and Grade 3 Monmouth Breeders’ Cup Handicap.

Canadian champions ridden to stakes victories at some point in their careers by Clark included the aforementioned Wilderness Song; Saoirse; La Lorgnette (who also won the 1985 Woodbine Oaks); Arravale; Wake At Noon, plus Bold Ruritana, One Way Love, Poetically, Edenwold, and Rare Friends.

Overall, Clark rode in 20,851 races while compiling hefty totals of 2,949 wins, 2,708 seconds, and 2,513 thirds for earnings of $80,668,015.

Those statistics basically are news to Clark, who had no idea that he was within hailing distance of 3000 career wins.

“It’s just a number,” he said.

Clark also is reticent when it comes to identifying his career highlights,

“There were both Plates, but there are quite a few – it’s hard to imagine,” said Clark.

“There was Wilderness Song, winning at Monmouth, and Saoirse, winning at Arlington – Canadian horses going away and kicking ass in the States.

“But sometimes it was just breaking a maiden, for a guy who was struggling.

“It’s hard to pin down a defining moment.”

Clark recently sold his home in nearby Kleinburg, where he lives with his partner, Carol Anderson. The couple will be moving to Ridgeway, in the Niagara region, on July 9.

Other than that, Clark admits that he hasn’t given much thought as to how he will pass his time in his retirement.

“I haven’t figured that out,” said Clark, who had just gotten in from a morning on the golf course. “I guess at least I’ll be doing that a little more, now.

“It’s kind of weird. I did this for such a long time; maybe it hasn’t totally sunk in.”