CLAY COUNTY. 01 January 1985. Sheer Grit-Make-Up 1. Owner-The County Set.
Clay County started his racing career in the hands of trainer Michael Cuingham, in County Meath, Ireland, making his debut at his local track of Navan in a 10 furlong maiden as a three year old. in May 1988. It was a promising debut, although finishing eighth, he was beaten under five lengths.He had two more flat runs, before making his hurdles debut in November 1988, finishing midfield at Fairyhouse. He would have three more runs for the Cunningham yard, his best on his penultimate start, when reaching the frame for the first time.
Over the Summer Clay County changed ownership, and countries, as he was now in the care of Scottish Borders trainer Dick Allen. After two unpromising runs, things began to click in to place at Ayr in February 1990, when he coasted home by 15 lengths. A further two races though were disappointing, and he was given a break until September. On his return, starting from a mark of 106, he placed twice, but did win a conditions hurdle, when his only serious opponent, the 1/4 shot Island Set broke down three out.
It was in December 1990 that he made his chase debut, under, his regular pilot Brian Storey, finishing second of nine at Ayr, two subsequent efforts, offered no clue as to what he would be capable of in future years. At the age of six, after a seven months break, he returned at Ayr on October 12th, winning the novice chase by 20 lengths. Maturity had finally kicked in, as he went on to complete a five timer, culminating in the Grade 1 'Northumberland Gold Cup' at Newcastle, all in just 77 days. His final race of the 1991-1992 season was at Nottingham in February, a Grade 2 novices chase, where he finished second to Deep Sensation.
He was off the track for the next ten months, returning at Kelso in November,and from a mark of 135, he made all for a two length success. Off his new mark of 140, he placed on all of his next three starts, before winning a conditions chase back at Kelso in March 1993.He followed up in a three runner event at Ayr, before two defeats off 140 at Sandown, and Perth, he was then turned away for the Summer.
Clay County returned in October 1993 at Bangor, where he beat his two rivals without breaking sweat, he was then second at Kelso, and a winner at Newcastle, before finishing runner up twice from a mark of 142.His last two chases for the Dick Allen yard, were in the Grand Annual at Cheltenham, and the Martell Chase at Aintree, where he cut no ice on both occasions.
In the Summer of 1994 the 'Million in Mind Partnership' purchased Clay County and sent him to Middleham to be trained by Micky.His first run for his new yard was at Haydock, he was beaten by eight lengths in to second place, trying to give Martha's Son 10lb. It was then on to Aintree, finishing third to the Oliver Sherwood trained Young Snugfit, before back to back wins at Musselburgh and Kelso, the later off 141.He returned for the Martell Chase at Aintree in April, and just failed to make all under Norman Williamson, but got compensation at Perth when reunited with Brian Storey,19 days later.
When he returned in October 1995, he was now in the ownership of The Country Set, he started that season by finishing fourth of eight at Ascot under Richard Dunwoody, His next race saw him back in the winners enclosure at Haydock in January, under Adrian Maguire from a mark of 148. In March 1996, he returned for the Martell Chase for the third year running, but his jumping was becoming suspect, and he blundered his chance away. The following month at Perth he was four lengths clear at the last when unseating Russ Garritty. He would race twice more, after his Summer break he returned as an 11 year old in October 1996, finishing second at Kempton from a mark of 150. His final start was on January 18th, 1997, also at Kempton in the Grade 2 Victor Chandler Handicap Chase, bowing out with possibly a career best at the age of 12 under A P McCoy, being beaten 3/4 length by Ask Tom.