The much-loved trainer who almost died, Udyta Clarke was back at the track on Wednesday to celebrate her win

The much-loved trainer who almost died, Udyta Clarke was back at the track on Wednesday to celebrate her win

Don Allan thought it odd, although not totally out of character, that Udyta Clarke didn’t answer her phone on the night of November 23, 2020.

Old harness racing mates for decades and a part-owner of many of Clarke’s best horses, the tightknit pair would speak daily, with the octogenarian keen to make sure his favourite trainer, who is about 10 years his junior, had completed her stable duties without incident.

Allan’s evening calls would often coincide with Clarke tending to her horses – it wouldn’t matter what time he called as much of her daily routine was spent at the stables – so if she didn’t answer the first time, she would always call him back within minutes.

But after his second and third attempts at contacting Clarke failed to reach her, he began to worry.

“She was on her own at the stables and I used to phone her every night at about 8:30pm just to make sure she was alright,” Allan told Radio TAB.

“The arrangement was that if I rang more than three times and she didn’t answer, I’d go down there.

“With horses you can have things go wrong, you call fall over, and she used to do all that.

 

 

“So I went down there, walked into the stable and there she was, flat on her back.

“I raced up to a chap up on the corner (of the street) to ask what number the property was and we got the ambulance out there.

“They put her into the ambulance and as they were walking out I asked ‘What do you think’? And he (paramedic) said ‘I don’t like your chances mate’ and then off she went to hospital.

“Thank God I got there and we’ve still got her.”

Clarke had suffered a hypertensive brain bleed or, in layman’s terms, a massive stroke.

Had Allan decided to have another scotch that night or to go to bed early instead of worrying about his friend, there’s little doubt Clarke would not have survived.

If Allan saved Clarke’s life, Julie Murray put it back together.

 

 

 

A longtime employee of the Cranbourne Turf Club, Murray befriended Clarke and quickly became an integral part of her training operation.

Along with Allan and another longtime friend, Keith Faulds, the trio formed the lovable trainer’s inner sanctum.

News of Clarke’s stroke quickly made it to Murray, who raced over to the property to gather her medications.

Allan asked Murray to be the point of contact for doctors and she remembers a series of frantic phone calls later that night in vivid detail.

“The phone rang at about 3am while I was driving to work – I was basically out the front of Udyta’s property – and the doctor asked me to pull over,” Murray said.

“He wanted to know what Udyta’s resuscitation wishes were because they couldn’t stop the bleeding and they didn’t know how long she had.

“With that, I rang work and asked them to get someone to cover my shift and then drove to the hospital and sat with her through the night because I thought that was going to be it.

“But the bleeding did stop on its own and instead of palliative care, she went to the stroke ward and then to rehab and here we are.”

WATCH: Hear from Clarke after Megamea’s win

While Clarke survived the stroke, her road to recovery was not going to be an easy one.

Murray visited her almost every day in the rehabilitation facility where she spent the best part of four months.

When doctors were happy enough to discharge Clarke, it was under the proviso that she either lived with Murray or in assisted living.

The choice was easy.

Whether it be as driver to regular medical appointments, chaperone on frequent trips to the racetrack or for company during weekly visits to Allan and Faulds, Murray has been a constant by Clarke’s side.

“When she got out of hospital she came here to my place in Bayles and she’s been living here since March last year,” she said.

 

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“At the start I had to do a lot of things, but she gradually got more independent and now she pretty much does everything herself.

“We have our moments and now and then we cross horns, as people do living under the same roof.

“Sometimes I forget there is a brain injury there because she looks so great, she looks better than before she had the stroke.

“We’ve been through the good times like those highs with Rich Charm, even though they were very stressful, we had all that fun but then you hit the bad times and you can’t just walk away.

“I couldn’t let them put her into a home because she didn’t have family.”

Allan and Murray flanked Clarke as she proudly marched into the winner’s stall at Sandown on Wednesday following the emotional win of one of her longtime favourite horses, Megamea.

Few words were spoken but each knew the smiles on their faces weren’t just about a horse race.

While she is no longer training horses, Clarke maintains an active interest in her former herd and remains a part-owner in several gallopers who have moved to Luke Oliver and Andrew Payne.

A couple of her old favourites, including Group 2 winner Rich Charm, are enjoying retirement at her property.

“Really, it’s been just over 12 months since a serious brain injury, so she’s pretty amazing,” Murray said.

“Now we’re allowed to go to the races, her life is as complete as it can be without being a horse trainer.”