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Udyta Clarke and the Charm of Derby Day

Patrick Moloney, Rich Charm & Craig Rumble after winning the TAB Multiplier Stakes at Flemington (Pat Scala-Racing Photos)

Story from AusHorse

The Group Two TAB Multiplier Stakes over 1200m at Flemington on Derby Day has played host to many a star during its long and rich history.

Since first being run in 1868 as the Flying Stakes (becoming the Linlithgow in 1908), the likes of Fastnet Rock, Choisir, Mahogany, Placid Ark, Campaign King, Scamanda, Vain, Wenona Girl, Sky High, Ajax, Chatham and Amounis have all saluted. Geez, even Carbine and Phar Lap are on the honour roll.

Now, while it’s probably a safe bet to suggest that 2017 winner, Rich Charm, won’t be uttered in the same breath in terms of racetrack legacy, he’s still likely to remembered for years to come … and for all the right reasons.

After all, Rich Charm sums up all that is good and great about the Australian thoroughbred industry: bred by the people who race him … trained out of a stable of six at Cranbourne in Victoria … by a stallion who stands for just $6,600 … and hails from a pedigree that would be deemed ‘humble’ by commercial standards.

Yet, out he comes – on racing’s biggest stage – and snares a Group Two to take his tally to eight wins (two at black type level) and five placings from 17 starts for a whopping $692,900 in stakes.

But the best part of all? His trainer, Udyta Clarke.

Just like her Group Two winner, Clarke is only tiny, but the other thing they have in common is a big heart.

Clarke was mobbed by friends and media in the mounting yard after Rich Charm came from nowhere to get up in a thriller and the 70 year old trainer was punching well above her weight in the celebration stakes, handing out a career’s worth of hugs, handshakes and kisses.

Confessing that she’d nearly scratched the horse earlier in the day after thinking that Rich Charm would struggle against the stables of Weir, Hayes/Dabernig, Snowden, Hawkes, Cummings and co., Clarke was the one left standing tall after the day’s final event.

“It was a tremendous feeling … incredible,” Clarke points out. “As I went to get the colours after the race, everyone just stood around clapping me as I walked past. I felt like bursting into tears.”

And the feeling hadn’t subsided much the morning after the long day before.
When Aushorse caught up with Clarke on Sunday, she was on the tractor grading the 1000m dirt track on her 50 acre property near Cranbourne.

“It’s all been go, go, go since the races,” Clarke reveals. “I got home around 1am and was up again early. I agist a few mares for clients as well and I’m walking in two of them (to stallions) tomorrow and have to be on the road at 4am.”

Clearly no rest for the small trainer, even after a big win! “I’m a bit of a workaholic anyway, but you really need to be because I do it all myself. That’s why I’ve only ever had around six horses in work at a time,” Clarke adds.

Having a stop-start career as a trainer, Clarke got a bit more serious about it in the 1990s and, while she’s always had a winner or two to keep the ball rolling, Derby Day was by far her biggest result.

“Rich Charm was bred by Don Allan and myself and we race the horse together,” Clarke explains. “He’s by Danerich, who is actually a very good stallion, while he’s out of a mare that Don and I raced called Charmly.

“We picked up Charmly cheaply from that yearling sale which used to be run at the Showgrounds in Melbourne and she ended up winning a couple of races for us.

“She won her maiden at Bendigo after coming from last (shades of Rich Charm in the TAB Multiplier) and beating a horse called Spurn in the process. Spurn would go on to win a couple of Group races, including the Sunline Stakes, but Charmly always had problems with her back and didn’t do much after that.

“We put her to stud and Rich Charm was her fourth foal … I put a lot of thought into where I send a mare. I know every breeder has his or her system, but Rich Charm has a cross of Mill Reef and it came up as a 20/20 mating.

“He certainly ran up to it on Saturday!”

Udyta Clarke is clearly one of a kind. While a lot of people say – figuratively – that they live for their horses, the bantamweight trainer takes it to the literal.

“I love my horses … they’re like family to me. They ARE my family,” Clarke believes.

“I had hip and knee problems for a couple of years and I was getting around on one of those walking chairs for a while. Horses know when you’re crook and they’d stand stock still for me when I was putting rugs on or generally working around them. Then, when I got better they turned into monsters again, but don’t let anyone tell you they’re not smart.”

And don’t let anyone tell you that Udyta Clarke is out of place in the mounting yard at Flemington!

Not so rich, but charm a’plenty.

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