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Historic Aiken Polo

F. Ambrose Clark: A lover of animals by Pam Gleason


hroughout its history, Aiken Polo Club has always attracted a wide variety of players, including ordinary amateurs, legendary polo greats, and interesting people who were better known as philanthropists, statesmen or prominent members of society. Frederick Ambrose Clark (1881-1964), was one of those interesting people who made the Aiken polo scene especially fascinating during the early decades of the 20th

century. Born to immense wealth and privilege as an heir to the Singer Sewing Machine fortune, Brose, (as he was called by his friends and family), devoted his life to horses. When he was a young man, he rode to hounds, played polo and competed in showjumping competitions and steeplechases. When he got older, he was known for driving an immaculately turned out four-in-hand. He maintained homes in Cooperstown, New York and on Long Island and became a member of the Aiken Winter Colony in 1916 after the outbreak of World War I made overseas travel too dangerous to consider. Brose was a bold rider, but he was not careful. Descriptions of his riding almost invariably include accounts of his many falls. According to his obituary in the New York Times, by the time he was an old man, he 86

Aiken Polo Club 2015

had broken every bone in his body at least once. In addition to his athletic pursuits, Clark owned and bred racehorses. His wife, the former Florence Lockwood Stokes, known as Meg, was both an heiress and an avid horsewoman and racing enthusiast in her own right, maintaining her own racing and breeding operation separate from her husband’s. Her older sister Marie, also an enthusiastic horsewoman, was married to Albert C. Bostwick and was the founder of the Aiken SPCA. The Clarks often visited England where they had a country estate in Melton Mowbry. There, they went foxhunting and maintained stables of flat and steeplechase horses. In 1933, Ambrose had two horses entered in the British Grand National, the most prestigious contest in steeplechasing. Believing himself to be a jinx on his horses that year, he sold one of them to his wife for one pound just before the race. That horse, Kellsboro Jack, sailed home the winner by three lengths. After this win, the Clarks renamed their Aiken estate Kellsboro House in their horse’s honor. Brose’s Aiken properties also included a distinctive brick stable that still stands today just across Mead Avenue from Whitney Polo Field. Known as the Clark Barn, the stable, complete with an indoor track, was built for Brose’s polo ponies. Brose’s polo career was not particularly distinguished, although he attained a 3-goal rating and was famous for spending impressive sums on his ponies. He was also known for using mallets that were hand crafted for him by prominent American cabinet makers. His chief claim to polo fame was his nephew, Pete Bostwick, the son of his wife’s sister Marie. Pete’s father died in 1911 when Pete was just 2, and Clark became a father figure to him. It was Brose who introduced Pete and his brother Dunbar to polo. Pete, an iconic figure in Aiken Polo history and a member of the National Polo Hall of Fame, attained an 8-goal rating and often played with the legendary 10-goaler Tommy Hitchcock. After F. Ambrose Clark died in 1964, he was buried in a private cemetery on his Cooperstown property. Just two other graves are in this cemetery: one belongs to the beloved horse Kellsboro Jack; the other to Buttons, a special dog. Both these tombstones have long inscriptions. Clark’s is more modest. It has just his name, his dates, and the inscription “a lover of animals.”

Aiken Polo Club Magazine 2015  

Aiken Polo Club 's annual magazine.