A harness racing legend, Clarkie Smith would reach the 2,000 win plateau at Saint John’s Exhibition Park Raceway on June 13, 1982, becoming only the second Maritime reinsman to achieve this lofty mark. This feat is even more phenomenal when one considers the fact that he raced only six months of the year for the first half of his career.
Born August 6, 1937, in Hunter River, P.E.I., Clark Harold Smith was the fourth child of Cyril and Marjorie Clark Smith. A natural athlete who excelled at baseball and hockey as a lad, Clarkie Smith was gifted with the razor-sharp reflexes that might have served him well in several sports.
Immediately following the initial period of learning under his father’s watchful eye, Clarkie went to work as a trainer-driver for Stanley Mayhew of Kinkora, who at the time possessed one of the largest stables in Eastern Canada, staying with Mayhew Stables until 1960. Following this term Clarkie would form his own stable, one of the most powerful public stables in the Maritimes.
At this time, while residing in Brookfield, P.E.I., Clarkie’s usual routine would be to jog and train horses along the roadside during the winter months, and then move into the facilities at the Charlottetown Driving park at the end of April. It was here that he would finish training his stable for the racing season, which included races at either Summerside or Charlottetown until the end of Old Home Week in mid-August. Then Clarkie would move either to Sackville Downs outside Halifax, or to the Maine Fair circuit. Thus, for the early part of his career, Clarkie raced approximately six months of the year, from May to November.
This pattern was followed until the spring of 1971 when he made a permanent move to Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia and Sackville Downs. As a result of this move he was able to race his stock for the entire year, owing to a winter racing program at Halifax. Clarkie remained a star attraction at Sackville Downs until May, 1979, when he moved his stable to Saint John’s Exhibition Park Raceway where he remained one of the leading drivers.
Clarkie Smith reined his first lifetime win in 1952, at Chatham, N.B., when he scored Bobby Hunter in an early-closer race. In the ensuing years, he had hundreds of horses, from nickel plugs to free-for-allers, from cripples to perfectly sound stake colts, and the way that Clarkie Smith handled them all earned him a reputation that ranks him among the all-time greats in the sport.
A complete horseman – one who can shoe, train and care for his horses as well as drive them – Clarkie is held in the highest regard by all his peers. To date, Clarkie Smith has been on the bike for 2,052 lifetime wins with total purse earnings of over $900,000. Among his career highlights, he has been leading dash winner in the Maritimes, leading driver at Summerside Raceway, Charlottetown Driving Park and Sackville Downs. Clarkie has also won the Heckbert Studio trophy as the annual Lobster Carnival’s top driver, and has been honored at the Summerside carnival with a “Clarkie Smith Day.” He has been awarded the British Consol Trophy as the leading driver during Old Home Week in 1958, 1959, 1960, 1963, 1966, 1967 and 1968. Only two other horsemen have equaled Clarkie Smith’s domination of the British Consol., these being the late Joe O’Brien and the late Francis McIsaac. In 1969, Clarkie Smith would be the fifth leading driver in all North America, with a sensational .409 average, winning 91 dashes in 382 starts.