College alumnus cashes in on Big Brown’s legacy

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September 19, 2008

10:08 AM

Although many watch Kentucky Derby-winning horse Big Brown’s races with interest, few have a greater stake in his success than Robert Clay ’68. Every time Big Brown wins, Clay makes more money.

But Clay is not a better or a bookie; he owns Big Brown’s studding rights.

Clay’s company, the Three Chimneys Farm in Midway, Ky., owns the studding rights to many famous horses. Although Big Brown’s stud fee has not yet been announced, sessions with Clay’s horses tend to be pricey. Smarty Jones, who won the Kentucky Derby in 2004, studs out at $100,000. Sessions with Dynaformer, who has sired 85 winning horses, including 2006 Kentucky Derby-winner Barbaro, go for $150,000.

Big Brown’s grandsire, Northern Dancer, holds the record stud fee of $1 million.

Clay, who majored in business at the College of William and Mary, maintains strong connections with the school. He currently serves on an advisory board at the Mason School of Business and has previously worked with the Alumni Association.

“College influences your life,” Clay said. “William and Mary was a great influence on mine.”

Clay remarked that he was class president his sophomore year but lost the presidential race his senior year.

“There was only me and another guy running that year, and the other guy who won my senior year was actually the same person I beat when I ran my sophomore year.”

Besides his student government activities, Clay was a brother in Sigma Phi Epsilon and worked for The Flat Hat.

Clay also met his wife, Blythe, at the College.

“We graduated in the same class and we got married in the Wren Building,” he said.

Coincidentally, Clay’s undergraduate thesis examined the economics of the thoroughbred business.

“I didn’t know what I wanted to do but I’ve always been an entrepreneurial animal, and I knew business was in my future,” he said. “In my work I get to do something that combines a lot of my interests. It involves sports, business, racing and horses. I’m extremely lucky [to be] involved in a business that’s just as much fun as work.”

Clay received graduate degrees from the University of Kentucky business school and Harvard University. He also served in the Navy for three years.

Big Brown’s most recent race was Saturday’s Monmouth Stakes, which he won. He races next in the U.S. Breeders’ Cup Classic Oct. 25, in Arcadia, Calif.

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