SAN MIGUEL, Calif. (Sept. 5, 2019) — Rancho San Miguel is greatly saddened to announce the passing of our General Manager Clay Murdock on September 3, 2019. Clay was not only an incredible horseman, but he was an extraordinary man who touched the lives of those around him.
A viewing will be held at Kuehl-Nicolay Funeral Home in Paso Robles, California on Friday, September 13, 2019 from 4 p.m.-7 p.m. Funeral Services will be held in Atascadero, California at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints building on Saturday, September 14, 2019 at 2 p.m.
Murdock was a member of the board of directors of California Thoroughbred Breeders Association. He broke into the business at the age of 12 as an exercise rider for his father’s race horses in Idaho and Montana. At 16, Murdock took out his jockey license and in his early 20s migrated to California, first galloping horses at Golden Gate, then coming south to head up a breaking and training facility for Quarter Horse trainer Russell Harris.
He took over a Thoroughbred breaking and training facility in San Miguel for Dr. William Marano that had one stallion in 1987 and in 2000 Tom and Nancy Clark purchased Rancho San Miguel and transformed it into a full-scale breeding operation under Murdock’s supervision with a horse population of 400.
“Nancy and I bought the farm because we had complete confidence in Clay’s ability to manage the operation,” Tom Clark told California Thoroughbred magazine in 2017.
“He has proved that our faith in him was well founded. Clay led the difficult transition of Rancho San Miguel from a training facility to now one of the leading breeding operations in the state. He did this at a very difficult and challenging time for the Thoroughbred industry in California. He built the infrastructure, recruited and developed the most professional and knowledgeable staff he could assemble, and has worked diligently every day to build a reputation beyond reproach for the farm.”
Murdock and his wife lived on the property and reared their five children there. Among the horses he handled were Sudden Hush, a California-bred winner of the Graduation Stakes who was second in the Del Mar Futurity, and the pair of Slew’s Tiznow foals, Zakaroff and More Power to Him, 1-2 finishers in the 2017 Grade III El Camino Real Derby.
“Clay has dedicated 30 years of his life to Rancho San Miguel,” Clark said two years ago. “He has accomplished so much during this time. Nancy and I are blessed to have had the opportunity to know and work with him so closely. Clay is not only the manager of our farm, but we consider him one of our closest friends.”