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Stacie Clark: The First Lady of Thoroughbred Aftercare

Stacie Clark after winning the 2014 Media Eclipse Award as Producer of Saratoga Warhorse

It’s easy to see why Stacie Clark should be called the "First Lady of Thoroughbred Aftercare.” Humble and motivated, her dedication and compassion has brought her to the top of her profession.

Born in Hamilton, Ontario, Stacie grew up on a farm in Nobleton. Her mother Joan was a trainer and her father Peter, who passed away last year, was a racehorse owner.

Of her early years, Stacie says, “I don’t remember learning to ride but I was always around horses.”

Her parents tried to involve her in other activities including enrolling her for high school at Hillfield Strathallan College in Hamilton -- a long way from the farm and the racetrack.

As a student at York University, Stacie spent every free moment at the track, galloping and grooming horses and working in the publicity department at Woodbine. To provide focus and complete her studies, she transferred from York to the University of Windsor. After graduating with a Combined Honors in Media Communications, Stacie worked in the Ontario film and television industry for 4 years.

Stacie resigned from her editorial role in the film industry and signed on to become a jockey. From 1993 to 1996, she rode races in Ontario. In 1994, she met her future husband, Mike Rogers, at Fort Erie Race Track. She also received the 1994 Sovereign Award nomination for Outstanding Apprentice in Canada.

After her career as a jockey ended, Stacie went on to work in the television department at Woodbine Racetrack, becoming both an Associate Producer and Television Commentator.  

In 2004, she helped create and manage the Adena Springs Retirement program. In this role, Stacie was responsible for the creation of the first in-house retirement program as well as the creation of aftercare programs at Gulfstream Park and Santa Anita Park.

In her aftercare work, Stacie came to know Jack Wolf of Starlight Racing, who was one of the founders of the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance. After sitting on the Board of the Alliance for several years, she became the Alliance’s Operations Consultant in November 2014.

On its website, the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance Foundation describes itself as a non-profit organization that serves two goals: 1) to accredit facilities that care for Thoroughbreds following the conclusion of their racing careers and 2) to fundraise to support these approved facilities.

In 2013-14, the TAA distributed more than $3m to 40 US-based and 2 Canadian-based aftercare organizations. Stacie explains that donations come from many sources including individuals and various organizations such as the Breeders’ Cup, stallion farms, and many others. Most recently, the Kentucky HBPA have voluntarily pledged $5 per start to the Alliance. In April, Churchill Downs and Keeneland announced they would match each contribution in their respective races.

The importance of these donations should not be underestimated. 

When the announcement was made, Jimmy Bell, president of both Darley America and the TAA said: “We are immensely grateful to the owners who will be paying the $5-per-start fee. And sincerely appreciate Churchill Downs and Keeneland matching those donations. We hope horsemen and racetracks in other parts of the country follow their example.”

Horse Racing Thoroughbred Aftercare AllianceIn addition to fundraising, the TAA works only with accredited aftercare organizations. The accreditation process is not an easy one, requiring completion of a lengthy application and subsequent on-the-ground, planned and surprise, inspections.

“I’m proud to say that this is the one thing the industry has come together on quickly,” says Stacie. “I know we can and are working through our differences because we all care so much about the horses. There are so many great people doing great things for the horses. Not just through the TAA but everywhere. When everyone takes ownership and does their part, even small things can make a big difference.”

In the lead up to the second leg of the Triple Crown, Stacie cites Pimlico Racetrack as just one of many examples. Through the track’s generosity, several initiatives will support the TAA including TAA logos on all saddlecloths for the 140th Preakness.

“Maryland is so awesome!” says Stacie. “They just love horses.”

When asked about her own role in helping to change attitudes toward retiring Thoroughbreds, Stacie takes no personal credit. Instead, she speaks of her friend, Professor Beth Daly, who teaches Anthrozoology at the University of Windsor.

Daly and Clark met several years ago when a horse Daly part-owned in a syndicate was claimed and she sought information about his retirement. Having seen Stacie’s name in association with Adena Retirement, Daly called to ask if she could help find her horse.

“We clicked,” says Daly. “I’m an animal lover and, the first time Stacie and I talked on the phone, we talked for hours. We’ve been friends ever since.”

Stacie helped Daly find her horse who was happily retired on a farm out West.

“Stacie is amazing,” says Daly. “She is totally crazy about horses and she has an innate belief that every horse needs to be taken care of. She is determined to make sure people take on that responsibility.”

For her part, beyond inspirations such as Daly whom she describes as “a rock star,” and a person “who has a voracious appetite for the food of life,” Stacie credits timing and synchronicity.  

“The time was right for the TAA to happen. Jack Wolf, Frank Stronach, NYRA, Darley, the Breeders’ Cup and many others saw what needed to be done -- a passionate group of dedicated people made this happen. Through these people the TAA asks everyone in racing to participate, to do a little bit to accomplish a lot. If everyone in the industry gave a dollar imagine what that would do?”

“Stacie is doing a terrific job,” says 2012-13 TAA Executive Director and now Churchill Down’s Executive Director of Racing, Mike Zeigler. “Her energy and efforts toward caring for these great athletes when their racing careers are over is unmatched, a huge benefit to the industry, and very much appreciated.”

“It’s awesome to give back,” says Stacie. “Horses have done so much for people. They have always helped and worked for us. Now, it’s up to us to turn to the horse and ask, ‘How can I serve?’ We will never completely return the favour but at least now, in the Thoroughbred industry, we are taking steps.” 

By Jenny Bridle for Racingfuture.com

 

Related

Follow this link to learn more about the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance

In 2014, Stacie Clark produced Saratoga Warhorse for HRTV and won an Eclipse Award. Click here to watch her award-winning documentary about retired racing Thoroughbreds helping veterans

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