Horseracing training duo Stella Barclay and Paul Clarkson putting county on the map

There may be just five licenced racehorse trainers in Lancashire these days, but the scene is very much alive and kicking, with Preston at the forefront.
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The most recognisable name of that quintet is almost certainly the Longton-based veteran Eric Alston, whose vast success on the Flat has included Group One glory in the Sprint Cup at nearby Haydock Park.

But if you head north of the city you’ll find another yard that’s keen to make its mark in the form of the Barnacre-based Lancashire Racing Stables, which is run by Stella Barclay and partner Paul Clarkson in the picturesque Forest of Bowland.

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While the pair have owned their yard since the late eighties, Barclay took up training later in life, having only been granted a licence in 2018.

Ghostly, ridden by Oisin McSweeney, won at Hamilton Park in June. Paul Clarkson is far right (photo:Grossick Racing Photography)Ghostly, ridden by Oisin McSweeney, won at Hamilton Park in June. Paul Clarkson is far right (photo:Grossick Racing Photography)
Ghostly, ridden by Oisin McSweeney, won at Hamilton Park in June. Paul Clarkson is far right (photo:Grossick Racing Photography)

Prior to that she was a librarian in Darwen for more than 20 years, before gradually transitioning from the amateur circuits to the professional trade.

It’s a rather remarkable career transformation for the 76 year old, particularly when you consider that it arrived later in life.

However, Barclay and her partner haven’t looked back and recorded 14 winners on the Flat in 2021 – a tally which they are well on the way to beating this year.

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And while she had her reservations at undertaking such a huge change of direction in her seventies, she explained that she doesn’t have any regrets.

She said: “I started thinking I was too old to do it and things like that but through having work with two trainers, I was just so frustrated that I couldn’t do what I wanted to do.

“Everyone has their own way of doing things and I just had this burning desire to do it myself and prove I could do it, which is what gave me the enthusiasm.

"Despite my age it was a fresh experience for me, so I think it’s what got me going.

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“We could have sold up and gone to somewhere where it’s always nice, but it wouldn’t be the same. Winning a small race is as rewarding for us as it is for Sheikh Mohammed winning a big race somewhere, the sense of achievement is the same.

“When you’re a trainer you’ve done it yourself. You’re feeding them, you’re exercising them and that’s why it’s special.”

The pair are a good fit and Clarkson, who hails from Poulton, has over 40 years of experience in the sport to offer.

That has included running a large number of syndicates over the years as well as working as MC at around 3,500 race meetings in the north.

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The 69 year old is a proud Lancastrian and wonders why more trainers don’t consider moving to Lancashire – considering that there’s at least 10 times as many yards on the other side of the Pennines.

He explains: “The racing scene in Lancashire is something I’ve always been quite interested in. If I was a young trainer starting again and I had the choice to go anywhere, I’d come to Lancashire.

“I’d think to myself ‘there’s no opposition’ – Eric Alston is 79, John Riches (based in Pilling) is 78 and we’re hardly spring chickens!

"I’d come to Lancashire. Why go to the middle of Yorkshire and have the likes of Tim Easterby and Mark Johnston up the road?

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“This is an area of great potential and Jack Berry showed it when he started. He moved to Cockerham in 1972 and I worked for him for four years as his racing secretary.

One year he had over 100 winners – there’s never ever been a trainer in Lancashire who’s had anything near that – but he showed it could be done.”

And while he isn’t dreaming of replicating such a tally with his partner, he feels that there is certainly a market for what him and Barclay can offer.

Clarkson continued: “What we think we do well is sweetening up horses from big yards and our selling point is appealing to owners who have lower level horses with some of the bigger names.

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"We’re hoping that they will consider whether those horses justify that sort of outlay and if not, we’re there to offer that alternative.

“I’m hoping though that with the recession that some owners think they need to cut back a bit.

"They can have two horses for the price of one here with Stella and we’d like to think we can do a good job.

“We like to think we can do a job as well as anybody if we had the ammunition, but you can’t win the FA Cup if you’re Accrington Stanley. We’re happy just having winners and that’s the way it is.”

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