A Sit Down with Norm Clements
By Brooke Goldring
The name Cam Fella is synonymous with harness racing in the early-eighties. Even after he finished his illustrious career with 28 straight wins, he went on to sire over a thousand foals who have amassed career earnings of $106.7 million. The Pacing Machine, as he became known, was bought as a two-year old by Norm Clements and Norm Faulkner. Faulkner passed away years ago, but Clements is still deeply involved in the harness racing industry. He was kind enough to sit down with me at his farm, Prince Lee Acres, in Uxbridge, Ontario.
I guess it could be considered fate the way that Norm Clements got involved in harness racing. It was the early sixties and he was out doing some business for Collegiate Sports. He just happened to be by a training track and saw a horse out for a jog. Something drew him to this horse and when he inquired, he found out he was for sale. He decided to buy it with a business partner and from that moment on, he was hooked.
Fast forward to present day and Norm looks back on everything with the wisdom and nostalgia of someone who truly loves our sport. It would be easy to sit and listen for hours while Clements talks about the days of Cam Fella, the parties, the money, the sheer joy of winning. What is more interesting than all that were his insightful views of the state of the industry today.
TIHR (This is Harness Racing): What do you love most about the harness racing community?
Norm Clements: This industry is just full of great, blue collar people who love their horses. It is such a tight knit community and that shows whenever someone in the harness racing world needs a hand. From barn fires to trainers with cancer, they just always have each others backs and are willing to lend a hand. I think those characteristics are truly unique to harness racing people.
TIHR: You’ve turned part of your farm here into quite the impressive breeding operation. What is it about that side of the industry that interests you?
NC: Breeding is exciting, it also brings a lot of jobs. Having the ability to help people get back on their feet with a job, that’s where I get my satisfaction. We have also been fortunate enough to produce some champions here. We have bred Cam Luck, Cam’s Exotic, OHO Diamond, just to name a few.
TIHR: What do you see as the main difference in harness racing when you first got involved and harness racing today?
NC: When you go to the tracks now, there are just not nearly as many people. It used to be a night out for people, even for families, you don’t see that now. It used to be impossible to get a seat in the dining room on a Saturday night, nowadays you usually don’t even need a reservation. It seemed like every farmer around Ontario owned a piece of a race horse and they all came out to watch, that just isn’t the case anymore.
TIHR: Do you think the sport can ever get back to where it was?
NC: I’m not smart enough to figure out how to do something like that, all I know is that harness racing isn’t dead. The Ontario Sires have helped and the prices of yearlings have gone up in the last couple years so that must mean something. In my opinion, it all starts with the people behind the sport. The finished product isn’t going to be there without these people.
While Clements admits he doesn’t have all the answers, he believes that there are people out there who do. He believes in this sport, and more importantly, the people behind it.