It was a cold winter’s morning at Randwick in July 2000 where a young Brad Clark was riding trackwork for Ron Quinton.
Sydney’s number one apprentice, Hugh Bowman, had fallen ill and had to forego his rides at Canterbury later that day.
Clark was on a three-month loan with Quinton, something he won as part of the prize for winning the NSW Country apprentice’s title.
Clark had one ride at Canterbury that afternoon when Quinton asked if he wanted him to chase up some of Bowman’s rides for him.
The result was one of the biggest days of Clark’s career. He went on to ride a winning treble at Canterbury. In fact, he was only a short half head away from riding half of the eight-race program.
Only days afterwards, Clark returned to Leeton, turning his back on what could have been in Sydney.
The metropolitan treble, a Southern District premiership, a country apprentice title and a number of country Cups are just some of the features in Clark’s fabulous career in the saddle.
But in an insight into the mark of the man, none of those accomplishments rate a mention when Clark reflects on the highlight of his 21-year riding career.
It was a win at what appears as an average TAB meeting at Wagga on January 9 last year that means most to him.
One of his best friends and biggest supporters, Tricia Anderson, had not long passed after a long battle with breast cancer.
Her husband Rob had taken over training the team and was having his first runner since Trish’s passing.
Chloe’s Puppet, a $41 chance, entered the race on the back of only average form. She settled off the pace, and was passed by runners on both her inside and outside midway down the straight.
But the filly dug in, responding to Clark’s urgings, and charged late to make a dive on the line. It was a win from the heavens, as Chloe’s Puppet got up by a nose.
“Any horse that I’ve won on, wouldn’t measure up to winning on that horse of Robbies,” Clark said.
“Even winning the Adrian Ledger Memorial on Kym Davison’s horse a couple of years ago. Winning a race like that, they’re the sort of races you want to win.
“Winning on Chloe’s Puppet meant the world to me. It was just after Trish had passed away. We’d been over there a few times before she passed and she was probably the biggest supporter of mine throughout my whole career, apart from Pete (Clancy). I’ve had more rides for Trish than anyone.”
It was the loss of Anderson, along with a couple of other friends, that put things into perspective for Clark.
After riding for the last time on Melbourne Cup day last year, Clark decided to call time on his career as a jockey.
“I’m comfortable with the decision. I’m still involved in it, I still ride work, go to the races, teach the kids so I’m still involved with it, a lot. But just the race riding side of it, I’m not missing that,” Clark said.
Clark has no regrets. Not least the decision to turn his back on Sydney and return home to the Clancy stable at Leeton 17 years ago.
“I was happy with my decision to go back to the bush,” he said.
“If I didn’t I wouldn’t have met my beautiful wife and have my gorgeous girls in my life.
“I just don’t like Sydney, I don’t like the city. I don’t like pressure and I don’t like the hustle and bustle of it. I had three months and was only there for three weeks.
“I didn’t want to be there to start. I had it in my mind that I was coming home. The best part about Sydney is the road going out.”
Clark returned to Peter Clancys at Leeton and finished his apprenticeship.
He then decided on a move to Wagga, where he would make his home for the next 16 years.
“I was getting a bit stale, getting cranky with horses, so I spoke to Pete and moved to Wagga and been here ever since,” Clark said.
He now resides in Wagga with wife Michele, and daughters Imogen, 14, and Mollie, 11.
Clark is well established for life after riding, working at United Fasteners in Wagga, while also moving into a new position at Racing NSW as an apprentice mentor and coach in the Southern District.
He is passionate about helping the next generation of jockeys.
“It’s good, the kids are good, they’re all taking on board the stuff I tell them and the information I give, especially around little tracks like Tumbarumba and Tumut,” he said.
“It’s going good, you can’t really tell just yet because it’s too soon but I think the kids have improved, and I think the seniors are more relaxed, or more confident to go out in a race now because the kids are actually getting training they actually need.”
Clark appreciates being able to stay involved in racing.
“I do love racing, I do love horses. I still ride work, I’ve joined the seventh high horse and all that sort of stuff, and I still love riding horses,” he said.
“Because it gives me such a thrill to see a horse perform, teaching kids how to do it, it’s a bonus. It keeps me in the racing game. I think they are listening and taking on board what I’ve got to say.”
Clark rode East Wind in trackwork and rates her as one of the best horses he sat on, alongside Sporting Queen and Juggling Time.
He enjoyed winning on Sporting Queen in town for Clancy, while he also enjoyed his 2010 Dubbo Cup victory on Izababe.
Clark thanks his parents Maureen and Baden for their lifelong support, as well as his wife Michelle and their daughters.
He is also very proud of the feats of his younger brother Tim, who is now based in Sydney and one of Australia’s leading jockeys.
“I am very proud, he’s done well,” Clark said.
“Now I’m retiring, he can hopefully come out of my shadow and have a go at number one Clark if he wants it.”
Clark also made special mention of Peter and the late Nerrida Clancy, who he spent five years with at their Leeton farm.
He is also appreciative of the support of Wagga trainer Peter Morgan, who he says taught him a lot.
“I’ve got good memories,” Clark said.
“I’ve had a lot of good times and ridden a lot of good horses and seen a lot of land. I’ve travelled a long way.
“I’ve been very lucky with my injuries, I’ve only ever had two broken bones and a popped out shoulder so I’ve been lucky.”
But Clark says it is the people that make racing what it is.
“You meet a lot of people in the racing game, you can’t name them all because you can’t remember them all but you meet a lot of nice people,” he said.
“Things like Trish’s funeral and Nerrida’s funeral, it kind of rekindles all that. I’ve met them, I used to ride for them and they’re all there still supporting Pete. It’s a pretty tight-knit but big family, the racing game.”