Clarence Marzolf: Let’s hear it for the “Little Guy” who ran his horses with the big boys!

Aug 18, 2021 | ASD History

Clarence Marzolf paddocking Astral Moon. 1982 Inaugural Handicap at ASD.

Clarence Marzolf paddocking Astral Moon. 1982 Inaugural Handicap at ASD.

by Bob Gates

Clarence and Sue Marzolf were a husband-and-wife duo that made the backside of Assiniboia Downs their home for 40 years. Theirs was one of those partnerships that was envied by many and admired by all.

We lost Clarence this past April and the Downs is poorer for the passing of the man with a kind soul and a good heart. No fancy language is necessary when it comes to Clarence. Plain and simple, he was a good man who loved all creatures great and small, but he was partial to horses and dogs — and Clarence had pluck.

Before we get into his backstory there are a couple of points that should be made. First and most importantly Clarence loved Susan (Sue) Elizabeth Daniels more than most of us will ever understand. Another thing that’s worth mentioning is the pronunciation of his name, Marzolf. While giving the appearance of an awkward name to say, it’s easy if you know that the “L” is silent.

It should come as no surprise that Clarence and Sue met on the backstretch at Assiniboia Downs. After a 2-year courtship, they married in 1973. To say that Clarence and Sue shared many of the same interests would be the understatement of all understatements. They were a team with a great love of horses.

Prior to joining Clarence in the creation of the family stable, Little Rock Acres, Sue worked in the backstretch for horsemen “old” Bob Ramsay and Harry Gumprich. In addition, Sue worked for Dr. Norm Elder and continued to do so after she and Clarence established their stable and small breeding operation. All told, Sue worked for “Doc” Elder for 34 years.

First winner for Clarence Marzolf. Northern Music. June 15, 1974.

First winner for Clarence Marzolf. Northern Music. June 15, 1974.

The Marzolf’s racing career had many highlights. Clarence got his trainer’s license in 1973 and saddled his first winner, Northern Music in June 1974. He went on to condition thoroughbreds for 35 years, retiring from training in 2009. In 1986 they won their first money-added event, the Buffalo Stakes, with a colt they bred and named after Clarence’s mother, Frieda’s Blazer.

Frieda’s Blazer was their first success and his 1987 rivalry with Bert Blake’s Royal Quiz is the stuff from which legends are made. As 3-year-olds the pair met seven times, with Royal Quiz edging Frieda for bragging rights, sporting a record of three wins, two seconds and a third-place finish to Frieda’s two wins and three seconds.

The Marzolf’s won 11 stakes races at the Downs. They won the Buffalo Stakes three times (1986 – Frieda’s Blazer, 1989 – Lord Little Rock, 2009 – There’s a Place), the Frank Arnason Stakes twice (1989 – Lord Little Rock, 1999 – Cache Lake); the 1987 Manitoba Stakes, Norway House Handicap and the J. W. Sifton Memorial with Frieda’s Blazer, the 1999 Graduation Stakes and Osiris Stakes with Cache Lake, and lastly the 1999 Chantilly Stakes with Black Knickers.


On the award front, the Marzolf horses took home three HBPA and five CTHS honours:

— 1987   Frieda’s Blazer — HBPA & CTHS: 3-Year-Old Colt/Gelding

— 1989   Lord little Rock — HBPA & CTHS: 2-Year-Old Colt/Gelding

— 1999   Black Knickers — CTHS: 3-Year-Old Filly

— 1999   Cache Lake — HBPA & CTHS: 2-Year-Old Colt/Gelding

— 1999   Cache Lake — CTHS: Horse of the Year

There is no denying that the Marzolf’s enjoyed a great deal of success, especially for a small stable. As many of you know, the racing business is no stranger to heartache. Yes, they were blessed with some fine runners who made their presence known as 2-, 3- and 4-year-olds, but even the good ones can fall victim to fate.

At two, Cache Lake was looking so promising. He was sailing along with three starts, three wins and all were stakes, but he suffered a severe injury in a freak training accident and the career of the tall lanky colt ended too early. Winnipeg Free Press writer Scott Taylor described Cache Lake as “the future of racing at Assiniboia Downs” after his third stakes win in as many starts.

Cache Lake wins the Osiris Plate. August 8, 1999.

Cache Lake wins the Osiris Plate. August 8, 1999.

At three, Lord Little Rock and 4-year-old Frieda’s Blazer also sustained career -ending injuries and lastly, promising 4-year-old broodmare Black Knickers died while foaling. Yes, the Marzolfs experienced their share, some say more than their fair share, of tragedy. The couple would retire from racing altogether in 2012.

Sue was hesitant to single out individuals who were integral parts of their team for the 40 plus years they were in the business. And there were many. She mentioned and was grateful for the various services performed by Tom Windross and Larry Hulabow, men who remain lifelong friends.

You could look, but I doubt that you’d find, anyone who worked harder than Clarence and Sue at their chosen profession. Their level of devotion to Little Rock Acres Stable was up there with any other stable on the grounds.

This past winter Clarence and Sue spent the winter in Osoyoos, B.C. as had come to be their custom. Clarence’s health took a turn for the worse and they returned to Winnipeg in March.

Clarence was hospitalized on March 29, 2021. amid the Covid-19 crisis. Sue didn’t know it then, but it would be the last time she would see her life-partner alive. Health protocol’s prohibited Sue from being with her soulmate and Clarence passed on April 11.

Death leaves a heartache no one can heal. Love leaves a memory no one can steal. ~ Author Unknown

In preparation for telling the story of Clarence’s exploits at the Downs, I had a heartfelt conversation with Sue. Memories flooded back and evoked a huge range of emotions for her. Here are some of Sue’s parting thoughts, including the quote from the obituary she wrote to honour her partner-for-life.

“I have lost the love of my life and my best friend. He is with me every day and is no longer suffering. I love you. Hug Hooter for me. Till we meet again.

              The hoofs of the horses! Oh! witching and sweet

              Is the music earth steals from the iron-shod feet;

              No whisper of lover, no trilling of bird

              Can stir me as hoofs of the horses have stirred.

              When you lay me to slumber no spot you can choose

              But will ring to the rhythm of galloping shoes,

              And under the daisies no grave be so deep

              But the hoofs of the horses shall sound in my sleep.”

 ~ William Henry Ogilvie   

Clarence and Sue Marzolf. 48 years together.

Clarence and Sue Marzolf. 48 years together.

Clarence Willis Marzolf and Susan Elizabeth Daniels were married for 48 years.  Together they had a wonderful life. On April 11, 2021, Sue’s life was forever changed. She now has her own guardian angel…

Clarence wouldn’t have it any other way.