McDOWELL, Thomas Clay

Fern K. Buford Walker
All rights reserved
Copyright April 2007©

Page 287 – Thomas Clay McDowell  son of Henry Clay and Annette McDowell.  I found the following article on page 45 in the Kentucky Explorer dated February 1999.  This is an interview done by an unknown newspaper reporter for the New York Telegraph dated sometime in 1902.  It reads:



In  1902 The Grandson of Henry Clay was a noted Horse Trainer

 “Here, you all run around and get that Halma filly,” said a strong voice in that unmistakable accent which denotes the Southern gentleman.  The servitors of the McDowell Stable ran, as they do only at the behest of the bred and born Southerner.  It was T. C. McDowell, a grandson of Henry Clay, and the present presiding genius of the famous Ashland Farm, near Lexington, Kentucky, who gave the order.

The factotums who sprang forward to obey were all from “Old Kaintuck” and had it not been for a little argument some 40 years ago they doubtless would be addressing the speaker as “Marse Tom.”  (The reporter is referring to the Civil War)

 From “Old Kaintuck”

 He is an interesting personage, this T. C. McDowell.  First of all, he is a Kentuckian, born on the historic Ashland Farm, the son of Major H. S. McDowell and a grandson of Henry Clay, the statesman.  Mr. McDowell is a typical Southerner.  He is over six feet in height, dark complexioned, small featured, and speaks with the regulation Kentucky drawl.  He suggests more the prosperous man of business than one who earns his daily bread breeding, training and raising horses.  His clothes always are in mode; his hats the proper shape; and his boots, even when about the stable or on the track watching the early morning trials, are as neat and as highly polished as though he were preparing for a morning stroll on Broadway, where “shines’ are more often met with than in any other place in the metropolis.  His hands always are encased in neat kid gloves, and, taken all in all, he might be classed as one of the “swells” of the track.

This is not due to the fact that Mr. McDowell is the trainer of the American string belonging to W. K. Vanderbilt, whose colors are known in France, but never before this season have been displayed in America.  Mr. McDowell is a bit different because it is his nature, handed down from a long line of Kentucky and Virginia ancestors.  In the first place, Mr. McDowell, back in the “Bluegrass” country, is a member of a “first family,” with a pedigree that would cause some of “our smart set,” to turn green with envy.  But, with it all, there is a deal of modesty about this stalwart six-footer, and he dodges a camera with blushes which would do credit to a school-girl.

It is only when he is talking horse that Mr. McDowell becomes communicative to a degree in which he forgets himself.  His father, Major McDowell, for years made the Ashland Stud famous as the breeding place of high-class trotting stock, and owned the famous sire Dictator.  The son now is about 35 years of age, and was married several years ago to a Miss Goodloe, a member of an old and well known Kentucky family.  They have an interesting family of children, who have been raised among horses and to hear him speak of them is to know his love for them.

“How long have your owned race horses?”  was a question I asked during a little talk at Gravesend a few days ago.  (Gravesend is a sea port in England)

“I wont answer that,” said Mr. McDowell, with one of his beaming smiles, “but I will say I became an owner when I was eight years of age.  My father gave me a thoroughbred then and I haven’t been without one since.”

Then Mr. McDowell interrupted the conversation for a minute to give a few orders to the stable employees.

“Horses are great things,” he resumed, as he seated himself upon a bale of straw, which serves as a portion of the outdoor stall for the ponies belonging to his children.  “They are just like babies, and you have to know their every mood and every ailment.  Sometimes they are worse, even than children and it takes a lot of patience to get the best out of a horse.”

What are your methods of training?”  I asked for the lack of something more appropriate to say.

“Well, I can’t explain exactly,” he said in his peculiar drawl.  “I suppose kindness, good treatment, hard work, and a close study of the nature of the animal enter about as much into my methods as anything else.  I certainly do like a good horse.”

Just then a stable attendant led out a prancing colt, almost the exact counterpart of Ornament, and McDowell exclaimed.  “Look at that now.  There is a Hindoo-Queen Regent colt I paid $1,500 for just because he was so dog gone pretty.”

“Do you buy horses for their beauty?”  I asked.

“Of course I do.  I wouldn’t give a cent for a horse that didn’t appear to good advantage, from a horseman’s view point.  I don’t know what the horse amounts to, but you will notice it is the handsome animal that wins four out of five races.  It’s like it is with a woman, beauty goes a long way.”

By this time a second attendant had brought out Monarka, who is the breed-winner of the stable, and who had won a mile and a quarter race a day or two before, on which McDowell is credited with having made enough to cover his expenses for the season, including his purchases of yearlings and all.

“Now there is a pretty horse.”  Said McDowell.  “Not only pretty but one that can run a race when called upon,” and the owner-trainer looked at the animal in a manner which served to recall the story I had heard of the colt a day or two before.

“I have a number of other beauties in here.  There is The Charmer, a Pirate of Penzance, a Sudie McNairy filly, a half-sister to Alan-a-dale and Maid Marion.  There is Sabot, a Halma-Clasterfeet two-year-old, belonging to Mr. Vanderbilt.  The next on is Anklet, and Ornament Maggie Gray two-year-old, with which Mr. Vanderbilt expects to win the Futurity next year.  I certainly hope he will do so, but we can’t tell yet what the youngster will amount to.

“Another of my own is The Rival, who has been knocking at the gate of the stake class for some time.  The Rival was third in the Kentucky Derby at Louisville and third in the Gaston Petel Stakes at Memphis.  He ran second in the Frank Fehr Stakes at Louisville and I hope to see him a stake winner before the season ends.”

End of interview--

Kentucky Thoroughbreds


BUFORD Families in America Book 2005

Addendum to Buford Book 2005






And my ALL-TIME favorite ~ TRIVIA


~~~Clouds by Torie~~~