After the Racetrack: Mr. Meso
Over the past year, After the Racetrack has profiled Off-Track Thoroughbreds like Whitmore, Scorpiancer, Zivo, and more, horses that translated their excellence on the racetrack into a second job. Each found loving humans who have made these former racehorses part of their families and helped them find their places after their careers are done. To cap off this series, we profile a gelding with a strong fan following both at the racetrack and at home.
Meet Mr. Meso, an essential member of the Clarke family and an OTTB who thrives in his roles as celebrity, companion, and four-legged assistant.
Winner, Helper, and Friend
Bred in Massachusetts by Cedar Lock Farm, Mr. Meso has a stakes-winning dam Miss Lavish and the likes of Fappiano, Deputy Minister, and Round Table a generation or two back in his pedigree. He debuted at Rockingham Park, winning his second start, and then added the Norman Hall and Anthony DiSpirito Stakes to his resume during his two-year-old season. Over the next few seasons, he added the Massachusetts Derby and in-the-money finishes in stakes like the Littlebitlively, John R. Macomber, and John Kirby Stakes. His record helped him catch the eye of Dylan Clarke, son of trainer Matthew Clarke.
“We were always looking for these horses so we could claim them and bring them back to Massachusetts to run them in the state bred program,” Dylan says. The Clarkes followed Mr. Meso’s progress in 2009-2010 and then took over his training after the gelding was claimed by the New England Stallion Station in May 2010. “We got him for a price that was almost like a stock price at the bottom, but he wasn't there. He still had plenty, plenty of life left.”
After that, Mr. Meso added two more state-bred stakes to his tally, winning the Rise Jim and the Last Dance, beating fellow Massachusetts bred mare Ask Queenie, who is also a product of Cedar Lock Farm. The gelding returned to the racetrack for his final season in 2011, but Mr. Meso did not quite show the same verve. “To me, it's almost as if he felt he had achieved what we asked him to do in winning those two stakes and we weren't going to push him,” Matthew Clarke shares. The week after the gelding was retired, Mr. Meso had a new job: stable pony.
“He took to it pretty much like a duck to water,” Clarke remembers, “Dylan put English tack on him, took him out to the racetrack, and went and stood there with the outrider. Later that day, Dylan asked me to give him a horse to pony and off they went.” Ever since, Mr. Meso has been a part of the Clarke barn as both Dylan’s partner and as a calming influence over any horse he encounters.
What stands out most about this now 22-year-old gelding is not only how at home he feels on the racetrack a decade after his career ended but also how fit he looks at his age. “The biggest thing is like, he's 22 years old now. And when I tell people, he's 22, nobody believes me,” Dylan says. “He still has so much energy even at his age. I tell everybody all the time he could go out there and works three-eighths, no problem. And you wouldn't even know his age or that he hasn't done anything like that in twelve years.”
When Matthew Clarke retired from training three years ago, Dylan took over his trainer’s license, going off on his own with Mr. Meso as his companion. Now, as the younger Clarke works with the ten horses in his barn, Meso, as the family calls him, is still a part of the stable, helping to calm nervous shippers and younger horses who need a friend to help them as they grow into their role as racehorses. The gelding possesses an uncanny ability to take the measure of any horse he encounters and remains unfazed by any shenanigans from a green colt or a loose horse trying to elude an outrider.
In addition to being a soothing presence for other horses, Mr. Meso is also great with people of all ages and understands the different kinds of riders that might sit in his saddle. On Suffolk Downs’s closing day in 2019, the Clarkes lent him to Jessica Paquette, who sat while doing her paddock reporting the whole day. “He looked after her so well. You can see the pictures of him in the paddock standing quite statuesque in the middle, completely still with the reins wrapped around his neck while she's sitting there talking on the microphone,” Matthew Clarke remembers. When the Clarkes put their son Zachary on the gelding, he took baby steps with the younger Clarke in the saddle. But, once Dylan sits astride Meso, his attitude changes.
“It's a different story then. He knows. Now he's a horse again,” the elder Clarke laughs.
More than a decade after his tenure as a racehorse has ended, Mr. Meso maintains that singularity as a Thoroughbred who loves humans and takes no guff from other horses. “He’s the blue-collar version of Lava Man,” as his former trainer calls him, a celebrity who is representative of what his breed can do and be on the track and off.
Great on the Track and Off
After the Racetrack has sought out OTTBs from across the country, ones that have won races at all levels and the hearts of fans around the sport. The goal has been to show that this breed can do much more than simply run fast; they can teach the youngest riders, ride over the roughest terrain, and tackle just about any task we ask of them.
“These horses are so adaptable,” Dylan Clarke says. “To me, they're the best breed because you can literally find them in all sizes, all shapes. And you can literally just pick one that suits you best. They just can learn and do everything.”
From Whitmore to Mr. Meso, we hope you have enjoyed our visits with these special horses and learned more about what they are up to in their post-racing years. The support of the sport’s aftercare efforts makes stories like these possible, a worthy focus for the resources devoted to the care of all horses, whether they are claimers or champions.