He saddled four horses for one race, the $15,000 Canterbury Park Quarter Horse Derby on Saturday, so walking a single horse while talking on the phone was a simple matter for a man so adept at multi-tasking.
The same was true about a three-year-old filly out of the Clay barn on Saturday _ Time for Wilena.
She’s a green filly, still learning, and had only a maiden win on her record in three career starts before Saturday’s $15,000-added Canterbury Park Quarter Horse Derby.
Clay gave rider Nik Goodwin his choice of fillies for the race, Time for Wilena or Cartels Belle.
Goodwin chose Time for Wilena.
“The other filly was a little more experienced. She was four-for-eight, but I thought this filly was still learning and maybe ready for something,” Goodwin said.
He made the right choice.
Time for Wilena not only ran a smart race, she did it in a track-record 19.69, tying the Canterbury standard.
Clay appeared to have gotten a break when 5-2 favorite A Sweet Gamble became a gate scratch after flipping around in the stall, but Saturday was Time for Wilena’s day.
“Obviously that (favorite) was one of the horses to beat,” Clay said diplomatically. “But the two fillies who ran one-two (The Regal Streak and Scott Stevens were second) really stepped up. It was going to take a good horse to outrun them that day.”
Clay hopes that his barn has similar success next Saturday. He has three horses qualified for the Northlands Futurity.
Clay has been tinkering with racing since the mid 1970s. He had horses his entire life, growing up in the Quad Cities area of Iowa. He was working for a weekly paycheck as a sales rep for a wholesale distributor, selling candy, tobacco and other items to convenience stores when he shucked it all for full-time training in 2000.
“The other way I always had a guarantee there’d be a check at the end of the week,” Clay said. “But this has been good.”
Living without the financial stability is occasionally tough. “When you’re doing well it’s great, but you have to be dedicated,” Clay said. ”It’s seven days a week. But you do get to be your own boss.”
Once Clay figured he was in racing to stay, he moved from Iowa in 2007 to a place south of Oklahoma City.
He not only won the Derby on Saturday, but the next race, too, with a filly named Six It Up.
It was one of the days that convinces a man he made the right choice in giving up the corporate world.
THEY DIDN’T LIKE THE SNOW
The stories were flying fast and furious this weekend about the early days of Canterbury Downs when HBPA director Tom Metzen pitched in with a tale of Minnesota snow and some fellows from the south.
“It snowed like a son of a gun before opening in 1986,” Metzen recalled. “The barns were open in the first part of April that year and we had a big snowstorm.”
The subject of this particular tale was a horseman from Shreveport, La., H.B. Johnson. He was an old rodeo guy, a saddle bronc rider. “Larry Lyon, one of the world’s best bull riders when Ted Warhol was riding, was training for him,” Metzen added.
In any event, H.B. sent a truckload of horses to Canterbury. “The grooms were right in the truck, along with the horses,” Metzen added. “None of them had ever seen snow.”
Until the doors to the horse van were opened that day.
“They took one look at the mounds of snow, unloaded the horses and went straight back to Louisiana,” Metzen said.