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OPINION | WALLY HALL: It's a sure bet that Clement will be missed

by Wally Hall | June 8, 2021 at 2:08 a.m.

Long before everyone had a cellphone and when computers were still big and bulky, Fletcher Clement found he could research the bloodlines of thoroughbreds.

This was in the 1980s.

He would spend hours pouring over printouts, but it was with a rhyme and a reason.

One morning he put in a claim for a horse running in a $15,000 claiming race in Florida. He got the horse but never saw him because before the sun set that day, a trainer called and offered him $85,000 for the horse.

Being a businessman, Fletcher took the money.

Last week, Fletcher, who was only 77, died.

It was a shock.

The last few times we visited he was exercising at a health club.

Most have seen those beer commercials about the most interesting man in the world, well, they missed the mark.

Fletcher was probably one of the most interesting men the world with a handful of hardcore friends.

Mike Hedrick, Pat Manning and your trusty scribe once drove to St. Louis for a stakes race at Fairmount Park because Fletcher was hoping to get bold type on one one of his horses.

Horses that win stakes races get bold type in the racing book and are generally more valuable.

We were sitting at a table at the track when someone in our group, me, said there looks to be a shipper from California who might be tough.

"Anyone who doesn't bet my horse walks home,' Fletcher said in a tone no one argued with, or almost no one.

We were once in the Bahamas on one of those "free" junkets where you have to put up a certain amount of money that you will gamble.

The funny money chips were different than those you can cash in. Fletcher was slowly exchanging the funny money for real chips when there was a shift change and the new dealer was a rather stiff young man from Great Britain.

Fletcher won his largest bet of the night and the dealer tried to pay him in funny money.

Fletcher calmly explained the system and the young Brit smarted off.

In the blink of an eye, the dealer's feet were dangling off the floor as Fletcher gave him an upfront and close explanation.

Fletcher served in the Green Berets in Vietnam, and while he was slow to rile, you really didn't want to anyway.

As a courtesy, the casino traded all his funny money for real chips.

Fletcher was an avid reader about the Revolutionary and Civil wars and somewhere along the line he started carving war figurines,

He won awards at art shows and then he became an in-demand artist as people all over the world wanted to own his carvings.

Joe Drape, an author and reporter for the New York Times, was so impressed with the figures and the fact that Fletcher was a blood-stock agent that he did a story on him.

Success didn't change Fletcher. He was always soft spoken and humble.

He and his close friend and attorney Hubie Mays were regulars at Oaklawn, and while it wasn't Fletcher's nature to give tips, he once showed me in the program a regally bred filly maiden who was overlooked. She paid $84 to win.

In the later years, between races, he could be found in the casino, but when the horses were called to the post he'd be on the way back to his seat.

Fletcher was raised in Little Rock, attended the University of Arkansas for two years before joining the Army. He graduated from UALR after the Army.

In his life he didn't collect friends so it was family who sent him off last week.

Fletcher Clement touched lives in a positive, defining way and those who knew him will miss him.

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