From an early age, Anne Clare was used to being the only girl in a man’s world. Born in New York City in 1892, she was the only daughter among six children in her family. She studied at the private Ursuline Academy before marrying her husband, Saratoga Race Course superintendent Thomas Clare. Since the role had been held by a member of the Clare family since the late 19th century, following Thomas’ death in 1940, Anne was the one who stepped up and assumed the mantle. In doing so, she made history.
“It’s a unique position she holds, and as far as could be ascertained, the only job of its kind the world over that is held down by a woman,” wrote Dick Boyle in Racing Digest. “There are women executives in racing, just as in many other business, civic, political and other enterprises. But the task of being a man in one place and the sweet essence of femininity in another is the very thing Hollywood biographers try to create because of the scarcity of such a combination.”
Indeed, Anne Clare was approached by scriptwriters and biographers interested in her story as a woman in a position that had been traditionally held by men, to which she said, “I’m not a career woman but simply trying to do a good job and justify the confidence my superiors have placed in me. Yes, I’ve been sounded out by California friends who’d like me to work out a biographical story with all the thrills and pathos of a ‘Who Dun It’ or ‘Lost Weekend’ drama. However, that will have to come later—if at all.”
As Saratoga’s superintendent, a post she held through 1960, Clare’s duties included managing some 150 employees, oversight of the track grounds, and care of the main track and training courses.* She assumed the role during a period of change: In 1940, the track introduced pari-mutuel wagering, necessitating the transition from bookmaking rings to mutuel stalls. The Saratogian said Clare “was more than equal to the challenge. When racing returned to Saratoga that August, Aunty Clare had the plant ready for the impending increase in patronage.”
Almost half a century after her death in 1976, Clare remains the lone woman in the history of Saratoga Race Course to have served as its superintendent of facilities. Our question: Who’s next?
*Did you know the Oklahoma isn’t the only training track at Saratoga? There’s also Clare Court, an active training track on the backside of the main track, and Horse Haven, a part of the Oklahoma area that was the site of the first meet in 1863. These days, Horse Haven is more of a barn and walking area than an actual training area.