There are several yardsticks by which the quality of a racehorse can be measured. Stamina, soundness, speed and consistency rank high on any horseman’s checklist for judging a horse and Claybrook Van had all these qualities in abundance.
A gallant old campaigner, Claybrook Van left the race track at age 14 when the rule book said he had to but with his past performance and history of soundness there is every reason to believe that he would have gone on racing for several more years had he been given the opportunity.
In his last year of competition this trotting gelding faced the starter 28 times and won nine of those starts. He finished second or third on eight occasions and picked up $26,216 for his efforts. The 1978 season wasn’t his best year although any horse owner would welcome the horse which could show such a nice profit at the venerable age of 14. The final year of his career demonstrates that Claybrook Van had the consistency and soundness of a great racehorse.
Claybrook Van amassed a grand total of $431,463 during his career on the racetrack and most of the money was earned at tracks throughout the province of Ontario. He had 53 career wins and raced every season from 1967 to 1978. His lifetime mark of 2:01:2/5 was taken at age 10 and the aged trotter had his best years at nine and 10. His total lifetime earnings in 1973 were $251,005 and that made him the richest Canadian-bred trotter of all time, a distinction which he still held when this piece was written in October 1979.
The gelding was purchased as a yearling by Wilfred Duford of Dresden, Ontario from Clayton Brock of London. The purchase price of $500 turned out to be the best investment the Dufords ever made. His sire, Josies Victory and dam, Ethel Van were ordinary horses distinguished only by their production of Claybrook Van. There have been several half and full brothers and sisters to the old gelding but none could approach the ability and consistency demonstrated by their brother.
Claybrook Van was owned throughout his race career by Wilfred Duford and was trained and driven by son Jerry. He earned his money in the Invitational class at many of Ontario’s race tracks and while he didn’t win many stakes events he was always tough and the stakes horses had to beat him to win. He is enjoying his retirement on the Duford family farm at the time of writing.