Long before the little gray yearling grew to be a racing warhorse whose winnings would eventually help fund a Thoroughbred charity, she was just a $4,000 sale horse. But she walked into the Fastig-Tipton ring with the presence of a prizefighter.
“The way she carries herself, it’s as though the whole world revolves around her,” says Kimberly Clark, a Maryland exercise rider and trainer who, along with her husband William, succumbed to the filly’s charm in 2002.
“My husband was the one who bought her for me,” she says. “If you could see her, you’d understand why: she was like a tractor beam. She had such a presence you could feel it.”
They took her home to Leighton Farm in Maryland, and commenced a lifelong partnership that flourished well beyond the racetrack.
Barn name: Graycie
Sire: Clouds Forty Four
Foal date: April 9, 2001
Total winnings: $85,000Racing under the name Cloud’s Honor, the strong, “opinionated” gray filly earned $85,000 before she retired sound, at age 6.
“She raced 31 times and tried her best every time,” Clark says. But, before her horse dropped in class and risked being claimed in a lower-tier race, Clark jealously retired her back to her farm, saying: “I didn’t want to lose her.”
And this is where Cloud’s Honor, renamed Graycie, has served as the benefactor and inspiration for other off-track Thoroughbreds.
Most of the purse winnings were reinvested for the betterment of Thoroughbred racehorses who needed to be retrained for new careers, or rescued from perilous circumstances.
Clark founded Thoroughbred Placement and Rescue, Inc., a 501 (c) 3 in 2007, and billed it as: “A Retirement Program created by Thoroughbred Horsemen, for Thoroughbred Horsemen.”
Since its inception in 2007, Clark has successfully transitioned approximately 150 Thoroughbreds a year from racetracks in Maryland, primarily Bowie and Laurel Park, to second homes and next careers.
Working with longtime friends and connections at the tracks where Clark has worked her entire professional life, she has painstakingly built a pipeline to help as many horsemen and horses as possible.
“The momentum of this has taken over my life,” she says. “I used to use my farm for layups, but now it’s full of all these guys looking to be retrained and re-homed.”
Graycie’s earnings paid for the charity early on, but quickly she realized that keeping the placement and rescue going required that she step up the fundraising pace. It was a race of a different kind, beginning shortly after she won her nonprofit status, and never letting up after that.
“I’ll never forget it when the Thoroughbred Charities of America gave me my first grant for $2,300,” she says. “I was so poor (in 2008), and my husband was paying for everything. But that single grant gave me so much hope. I remember thinking that things are bad now, but I’m going to make it.”
And make it she has, but only by sheer hard work. Most days Clark gets up at 3 a.m. and retires at 6 p.m., and in course of it all, serves as office worker, horse trainer, marketing maven, grant writer, and of course, the critical connection for horses and trainers.
But tired as she may be at days end, she always finds inspiration by glancing into the stall occupied by the powerful gray mare who has worked just as hard for her place in this world.
Since retiring permanently from racing, Graycie has begun a second career as a dressage show horse. She and Clark take lessons from Grand Prix coach and judge Elizabeth Madlener.
Last month, Graycie attended her first PVDA schooling show and won both classes.
She also had a baby, Magnificent Mr. Z, and has proved, despite her disagreeable nature among other horses, to be a wonderful mother. “I was worried about breeding her and warned the sire’s owner that she might kick the other horse,” Clark says, laughing. “She did. She kicked him. But she had a beautiful foal with Unbridled Mate. And she is a lovely mother. “
Winning racehorse. Inspiration for Thoroughbred charity. Mother.
Cloud’s Honor has paved the way for other racehorses just by showing what so many Thoroughbreds are capable of. And Clark hopes that as her charity grows, other horses, owners and benefactors will come along for the ride.
“Our goal is to help as many horsemen and horses as possible.”