YEAR: 2008

Alan and Fiona Clark

From where he was at the 500m, a furlong from the front, Alan Clark could only hope Castletonian was a force in the finish of the $60,000 NRM Sires Stakes 2yo Trotters Championship at Addington. To what extent he didn't know, and he was cheered when Kevin Townley joined him and went past with Dream Machine and wished good luck. He considered Townley might have had a better view of who was where than he did.

By the time he reached the finish in last place with stablemate The Statistican, Castletonian was being turned by driver Colin De Filippi after a surprise win in the Group 2 trot from Gimli and Outmuscle. He was not inconvenienced by the mistake hot favourite Jumanji Franco made in front after 700m, the one Merckx made at the start, and the gallop Pocaro made when making a fair challenge at the 100m. It was deliverance for a horse with no frills, came with no sharp speed, who was simply safe and steady, and was there without the fanfare and fuss of a big stable.

Castletonian is raced by Fiona Clark and her husband Alan, a retired school teacher from Mosgiel, who do the hard yards from "a nice set-up" as a little team of their own. Alan works Castletonian by himself, relying on trials and raceday starts to top off his preparation and give him the edge he doesn't quite get at home. Fiona used to drive fast work, but a spill here and there has pretty much meant her main drive now is in the ute with the jog team. Clark is renowned for his enthusiasm in sending his trotters - because that's all he trains - into action at the earliest opportunity. "I like to get the mileage into them," he said. Constar, a current NZ record holder as a 2-year-old, was a good example. She's now retired, and the foal she'll have to Sundon will be sold.

Castletonian, by Continentalman and the second foal from the four-win mare Anna Castleton, was bought as a yearling for $6500 off Barry Ward, who has since sold the mare to Lex and Heather Williams. "I just liked the way he moved," said Clark. "Sometimes I don't know what I'm looking for, but he appealed because although he was big he wasn't heavy boned. I gave him a show as long as the pace was on. I knew he would keep on trotting when some of the others didn't."

De Filippi, who will retain the drive in the Ruby and wear the yellow jersey at the end of the month, drove the horse to suit his abilities; as he did later in the day when producing the classy Idid It Myway on the fresh side to arrive with a brilliant burst in the main trot.

Clark also has the Breeders Crown in mind for Castletonian, but in the meantime he is selling three yearlings this week at the Mixed Age Sale. "I sold Solana last year to Sydney and Solar Flare to Noel Shinn, and he's done well with Armed Guard from me. I've got eight yearlings in work, and one by CR Commando would drop-kick Castletonian. I've also got a nice one by Monarchy who can run a quarter in thirty, and I'll be keeping both of them. Our four weanlings are by Continentalman and Monarchy, and we have got five mares in foal to Thanksgiving."

Like many with Cambridge in mind, Clark is on the road this week. Fiona and Vicki Cowan left on Wednesday with Castletonian and Trotupastorm. With the untimely death of the Clark's good friend Peter Cowan, it's been a memorable week for good reasons and sad.

Credit: Mike Grainger writing in HRWeekly 14 May 08

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