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December 7, 2016

Randy Rouse Honored With F. Ambrose Clark Award

Randy Rouse, who'll turn 100 later this year, has been awarded the National Steeplechase Association's F. Ambrose Clark Award for his many contributions to the sport. Photo by Douglas Lees.

Randolph D. Rouse, a Virginia horseman who guided the National Steeplechase Association through some of its most challenging days in the 1970s and inaugurated one of the sport's most important innovations, has been awarded the F. Ambrose Clark Award, U.S. jump racing’s leading honor.

Rouse, who continues to establish racing records as he approaches his 100th birthday later this month, is the 26th recipient of the F. Ambrose Clark Award. Created in 1965, the award recognizes those individuals who have done the most to promote, improve, and encourage the growth and welfare of American steeplechasing.

"Randy Rouse is a most deserving recipient of the F. Ambrose Clark Award," said NSA President Guy J. Torsilieri. "He has been a leader of the sport in his native Virginia and nationally, and he is an inspiration to those who have followed him."

He and his wife, Michele, reside in Arlington, Va., and have a farm in Aldie, Va.

Randy is all but synonymous with jump racing and hunting in Northern Virginia. Born in Smithfield, Va., and raised in Newport News, he settled in Northern Virginia after graduating from Washington and Lee University in 1939 and serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He founded Randolph D. Rouse Enterprises, a construction and investment firm, in 1947.

His interest in hunting and racing blossomed after being invited to participate in the Fairfax Hunt (Va.). In time, he became master of foxhounds for the Fairfax Hunt and held that position for several decades. He also helped to launch the Fairfax Races and served as its chairman for more than three decades.

He was elected the NSA’s president in 1971, just as New York racing was adopting off-track betting and simultaneously de-emphasizing jump racing. Randy, who was steeped in the tradition of country racing, began the process of changing the focus of the sport to its race meets.

Today, the NSA pays record purses, with roughly three-quarters of all purses raised and paid by its race meets. Moreover, the sport's richest races are run at meets that maintain open space close to large metropolitan areas. Randy was at the forefront of beginning that four-decade-long transition.

At the same time, all meets in the early 1970s were confronting the cost of maintaining natural fences for hurdle races. With NSA Executive Vice President John E. Cooper, Randy explored the idea of a manmade fence that would be moved from meet to meet. The result was the National Fence, which was inaugurated in 1974, Randy’s final year as NSA president.

As a horseman and race-meet official, Randy intimately understood the needs and concerns of owners, trainers, and jockeys. He was an accomplished amateur jockey and won 10 races without a defeat with his top horse, Cinzano, in point-to-points in the 1980s.

The subject of a widely publicized horse-identity swap, Uruguay-bred champion Cinzano had been stripped of his Jockey Club registration and could not compete in sanctioned races. Randy then purchased him as a point-to-point prospect.

“He was the best horse I ever had,” Randy once said in an interview. “Once the flag dropped, he took off in front. All you had to do was steer.”

Randy continues to be active in the sport. He still trains, and his Hishi Soar put him in the record books when the hurdler won the Daniel Van Clief Memorial at the Foxfield Spring Steeplechase in Charlottesville in April.

With the victory, Randy became the oldest trainer ever to saddle a Thoroughbred winner in North America. He broke the record he had set in November 2014 when Hishi Soar won a claiming hurdle at the Montpelier Hunt Races. Randy was 97 at the time and eclipsed the record of California-based trainer Noble Threewit, who won a race at age 95 in 2006.

"I will never retire," Randy said in a 1998 Washington Post interview. "I may wear out, but I won't rust out." He has been true to his word, and the F. Ambrose Clark Award honors his distinguished career in steeplechase racing.

 
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