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Riding to notable acclaim

Ted Clarke (right) was honoured at the Hall of Fame Gala at the Mississauga Convention Centre on August 6. [Submitted]

Long recognized as a champion for Ontario’s horseracing industry and a driving force behind the Grand River Raceway, Dr. Ted Clarke is now a member of the Canadian Horseracing Hall of Fame.

Ted Clarke (right) was honoured at the Hall of Fame Gala at the Mississauga Convention Centre on August 6.[Submitted]
Ted Clarke (right) was honoured at the Hall of Fame Gala at the Mississauga Convention Centre on August 6. [Submitted]
Inducted in the builder category among the class of 2014, the former veterinarian and racehorse owner, and current general manager of the Grand River Raceway was honoured during the Hall of Fame Gala at the Mississauga Convention Centre August 6.

Clarke, well known for his humility, made sure to share the honour with the greater horse racing community.

“I’m profoundly grateful for the award and as I’ve said a number of times and it bears repeating, this recognition is really the recognition of the efforts of many people who at a grassroots level have managed to see racing persist and have the opportunity to once again prosper,” Clarke told The Observer shortly before the induction ceremony. “I think there were so many people over the last 30 years that have helped me out to help me get one thing or another done. There are so many that I can’t even begin to name them all. … But the fact is there are hundreds of people who have contributed to this award and I appreciate every one of their contributions.”

Clarke helped steer horseracing in the region through difficult times, including the raceway’s move from Elmira to Elora in 2003. He is also widely credited with helping establish the tele-theatre network that was critical to the success of small race tracks throughout the province.

Clinton Raceway manager Ian Fleming presented Clarke with the prestigious Hall of Fame ring during the ceremony.

“What sets him apart from the pack is that he just refuses to quit,” Fleming said. “When they wouldn’t allow gaming in Elmira, that would have finished most tracks, but they went to the trouble of finding another place for a racetrack. Of course they do an outstanding job there in Elora. It’s the benchmark for what a track is supposed to be like. Then two years ago when they announced all of the changes to gaming it sure looked like (the gaming) would move to Kitchener or Cambridge, and he’d be out of business again, but he’s fought that back too and the track is still thriving over there.”

Despite all of the challenges Clarke has faced in keeping his own track going, he always looks out for the entire horseracing industry, Fleming said.

“You always hear people say they’re doing things to help the (horse) industry,” Fleming told Grand River Raceway’s marketing and communications manager Kelly Spencer when this year’s class was announced. “What they really mean is they’re doing it for their own cause and hopefully some benefit will trickle elsewhere. Not Ted. He’s always on the lookout for everyone: fellow tracks, all participants and customers.

“He’s paid by Grand River Raceway and does a great job at that, but he actually volunteers for the rest of us. He genuinely wants everyone to succeed. He’s called on for advice by the entire industry, from top to bottom, and is available for such 24/7.”

Clarke got involved in harness racing in the mid-’70s as a racehorse owner. Eventually, he became an official representative for horseracing participants, a role that has influenced his thinking as a racetrack manager.

“It lent a significant perspective to the activity as a whole,” Clarke said. “So my focus wasn’t entirely driven by if you have x inputs you’ll have x outputs and as long as the inputs are more than the outputs it’s not necessary to consider the collateral damage that may take place. In purely a management role, that probably would be the means by which you might look at things, but perhaps I’ve had a more holistic view of the industry.”

It’s a strategy that has paid off, he says.

“Certainly a good number of the successes we have achieved were achieved with the cooperation of the horse people participating in the activities that the track was active in.”

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