When Mario Deslauriers and his horse, Urico, pulled off the fastest clear round in the speed jumping competition Monday, the biggest smile in the U.S. contingent belonged to Urico's owner, Jane Forbes Clark.
She's pulling off a triple play never before accomplished in equestrian world championship history: She owns horses in three of the eight disciplines at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. Urico, a show jumper, a Grand Prix dressage horse named Nartan and a team of carriage horses driven by Jimmy Fairclough.
"I had a hope and a dream," she said of having so many of her horses qualifying for the Games. "This is so much fun.
Clark, 55, has been around the top levels of equestrian sport her whole life and has turned that vocation into a profession as president of the United States Equestrian Team Foundation. That means she's in charge of raising the roughly $2.5 million a year for top level equestrian sport.
And that's not her only job. The other one, slightly different to be sure, is chairwoman of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., which was created by her grandfather, Stephen Clark. Her great-great-grandfather, Edward Clark, co-founded what is now Singer Sewing Co.
Sure, the image of tony equestrians differs from that of blue-collar baseball, but, she says, "there is no difference when you're dealing with world-class athletes. You see great competition, great sportsmanship, they're just different sports."
Here at the Kentucky Horse Park, however, she's a living model of the patronage upon which so many world-class equestrian athletes depend.
In her USA team parka, she watches her horses warm up, standing with the grooms and chef d'equipe, or manager, George Morris, when they go in the ring.
"I actually get more nervous on the ground than when I competed," Clark said. "When you're doing, you're the one doing it. When you're on the outside, there's no way of helping."
'My horses know me'
She grew up in Middleburg, Va., and New York, starting out with ponies and rising to the top competitive ranks. She has long owned dressage and jumping horses, and she was familiar with driving because of her great-uncle Ambrose Clark, a famous carriage driver.
Her parents also owned racehorses, an avenue she thought about going down. But she likes having the horses on her farm in Wellington, Fla.
"I like walking into my barn and having my horses know me, and being able to ride them," she said.
She describes herself as a "very hands-on owner, but I have great respect for Mario, Jimmy and Katherine," she said of Deslauriers, Fairclough and Katherine Bateson-Chandler, a Grand Prix dressage competitor who rides Nartan. "If they ask me, I will say something."
Deslauriers described her as a great owner.
"She's ridden and competed, she understands all the aspects of the different things that happen, and that horses have bad days," he said.
Deslauriers, a native of Canada, started riding for Clark a few years ago, a move he described as central to becoming a U.S. citizen in 2009 so he could ride for Team Clark on Team USA.
Clark splits her time between Florida, Cooperstown and Manhattan, where she manages her family's businesses and real estate holdings, including the historic Dakota apartment building in Manhattan. She is also president of The Clark Foundation, which supports non-profit groups.
In Cooperstown, she helps guide the National Baseball Hall of Fame, which she describes as an institution that preserves history and tells the story of American baseball. The organizers have thought a lot, for example, about how to present the steroid controversy that has roiled baseball for the past few years.
"We're going to talk about it because it is the history of baseball, and that is what we do," she said. "We don't give opinions, we simply tell the story. People can form their own opinions."
As for the Games, Clark hopes they will make her job a little easier by exposing more people to equestrian sports.
"People are going to learn more about the different disciplines, and that can only help us."
And she hopes that her horses win and that the U.S. teams keep winning gold medals.
"People ask me what's it's like to have these horses," she said. "It's so much fun, and it's so rewarding."