KINGSTON, Jamaica - Donovan Clarke could have abandoned horse racing after his riding career was cut short due to a weight issue. Instead, he shifted his focus to training and experienced immediate success. Clarke, who graduated as a jockey in 1986 alongside classmates Trevor Simpson and Joseph Buchanan, rode 27 winners before his promising career faced challenges due to weight control issues.
"I began as a jockey, but weight problems ended my riding career prematurely. I earned my riding license in 1986 and stopped in the 1990s. On April 7, 1986, I won my first race as a jockey riding Go John, a horse trained by Frank Parham. Go John was also my first ride, which made the victory even more special," Clarke shared.
Clarke graduated from the Jamaica Racing Commission Trainers' Training Program on May 12, 2023, as one of 39 conditioners. Just four months later, on September 10, 2023, he celebrated his first win as a licensed trainer with the horse Bern Notice.
Ridden by Raddesh Roman, Bern Notice triumphed in a three-year-old and upward claiming event over one mile. The five-year-old chestnut horse secured victory by 2¼ lengths ahead of Crimson (Richard Henry) and Katalina (Javaniel Patterson), clocking a time of 1:42.2.
"I am overjoyed to have won my first race as a trainer. It was trainer Patrick Lynch who encouraged me to make the transition from jockey to trainer. I embraced the opportunity and trained under Michael Marlowe, which brings me to where I am today," Clarke explained.
"The training aspect feels natural since I've worked with many horses as a jockey and received guidance from trainers on programming the horses. However, I did have to study nutrition at school – it was incredibly helpful," he continued.
Regarding the horse's performance, Clarke praised Roman for his exceptional riding skills. "Roman worked with the horse during morning sessions and really understands him. He's a top-notch jockey, so I didn't have to give him too many instructions."
Taking things one day at a time, the patient and determined Clarke looks forward to seeing how his two-year-old horses perform in future races.