One of the three ‘Captains’ in horse racing, famous in their days, was Captain Sandy Carlos Clarke, who trained from Hill House Stables in Lambourn. The other two were, of course, Captain Ryan Price and Captain Neville Crump.
Sandy was a truly colourful character, whose education at Eton had been paid for by his mother’s winnings at the poker table. He died in May 2003, aged 87, having tried a variety of careers, ranging from professional boxer, dog kennel assistant and cowboy, before serving in the Commandos in the Second World War and finally becoming a racehorse trainer.
At the age of 13 he was chosen as the best boy rider at the Horse of the Year show at Olympia, and, as children, he and his sister Diana hunted with the Quorn. Amongst his hunting friends was the Prince of Wales, later Edward VIII, who, as a boy, gave him a diamond pin. The sale of that pin years later gave Sandy enough money to buy land in Lambourn and embark on a training career at Hill House Stables with 56 boxes mainly for flat horses.
In between he had a spell as a boxer in France, where he was said to have had 19 fights and lost them all. A post as vegetable chef at the Savoy followed on his return. When his shift finished, he would change his clothes and dine in the restaurant- the job lasted only a few weeks.
His parents sent him to university in Montreal in a bid to improve his education, but he failed all subjects and spent much of his time as a ranch hand, disembarking from the boat on his return dressed as a cowboy and with a saddle slung over his shoulder.
He later joined the Commandos and took part in the Normandy landings with No 4 Commando. He was responsible clearing Germans from fortified island of Walcheren in a number of successful raids on the last months of the war. He was invalided out of the army in 1946, having been injured for second time in the Low Countries.
His sister Diana had married racehorse trainer Fulke Walwyn at Lambourn, who gave him a job as assistant trainer. When he married local farmer’s daughter Barbara Bracey , he set up his own racing yard at Hill House buying the land from the sale of the tie pin plus £50.
He loved horses but never bet on them. His yard was mainly Flat, though he had some jumps runners such as grey Good Gift, which won a number of races. He won the Ascot Stakes with 25-1 shot Wildnor in 1955. Allez ,owned by Nick Eliot, 9th Earl of St Germain, was one of his other good Flat winners, providing him with numerous wins with Eric Eldin on board. Others included Travelling Light, Mack The Knife, La Villette, Rose Cut.
My husband was based with Sandy from the age of 14-18, when his weight finally overtook him and he had to leave racing. He had several rides over jumps and looked after Allez. and others.
We used to visit Sandy and Barbara, and after Sandy died, we heard from Barbara every Christmas with news and gossip from Lambourn. We took her out for lunch in summertimes.
Sadly three Christmases ago there was no card or letter and after making inquiries in Lambourn, we learned she had died two months after our last visit. Then she had been as smartly dressed as ever, witty and keen-minded and full of news about Lambourn and its training establishments- a great lunch companion.
End of an era. But this Christmas I trawled the internet and found a recording of Sandy’s biggest training win with Wildnor
This is for you, Sandy and Barbara, with love.