As the hustle and bustle of the 2016 Saratoga opening day got into full swing last Friday morning, preparations at Cristophe Clement’s barn next to the Oklahoma training track continued like it was any regular morning for the past few months. The Clement barn has had a strong presence since early June with workers and horses getting ready for the Saratoga meet on the Oklahoma.
Turf training had just completed and Clement watched each of his horses that had worked that morning walk and trot in front of him by his barn. He personally inspected each horse by watching their movements, listening to their click-clacking hooves and feeling all four legs to check for soundness.
It’s this type of care and attention to detail that has made Clement one of the most successful trainers in the sport over the past 25 years. The 50-year old Clement will soon celebrate his first win on the NYRA circuit back on October 20, 1991. With a total of 1,688 wins and over $110 million in career earnings since then, Clement is still working hard to get ready for the big Saratoga meet.
“My stable is full,” said Clement, “We have good momentum coming in (to the Saratoga meet) with some good wins over the past few weeks at Belmont, so I’m excited.”
The French-born Clement is ready to start a mix of stakes horses and promising two-year olds at “The Spa” this summer with the hopes of some big performances.
Big Horseshoes to Fill
Clement may be known best to casual horse racing fans as the trainer of 2014 Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist. The multiple Grade-1 winner would later add the 2014 and 2015 Jockey Club Gold Cups to his stellar record. Tonalist would end his career with an emphatic come-from-behind triumph in the 2015 Grade-1 Cigar Mile before retiring to stud.
“It’s tough to replace him. It was great for him to win that race (Cigar Mile). It was a nice way for him to finish his career, but he’s a very, very tough horse to replace,” said Clement.
In an attempt to try to win his second Belmont Stakes in the last three years, Clement ran the New York-bred Governor Malibu this year. Coming into the race, Governor Malibu was receiving a lot of industry buzz, but a troubled trip where he was stopped multiple times in the stretch by a tiring, front-running Gettysburg resulted in a fourth place finish.
“He was a bit unlucky, but he ran a very nice race. He’s a good horse and the Jim Dandy will be a very tough race,” said Clement.
Governor Malibu will face five others in the Grade-2 Jim Dandy this Saturday, July 30 at Saratoga including Belmont Stakes winner Creator, multiple graded-stakes winner Mohaymen and Tampa Bay Derby winner Destin.
“(Governor Malibu) is doing well. He’s a lovely horse and keeps getting better. Certainly, he’s very honest. He’s a nice horse to train because you know he will give 100% every time you run him,” Clement said.
Before his fourth-place finish in the Belmont Stakes, Governor Malibu showed that he could compete at a top level by placing second behind top three-year old prospect Unified in the Grade-2 Peter Pan at Belmont. Before that, he was disqualified from first in the Fedeico Tesio Stakes at Laurel Park, which is the “local prep” for the Preakness. His last win was in the Gander Stakes for New York breds on the Aqueduct inner course in early February.
Clement said that he is not worried about the pace-scenario in the Jim Dandy and trusts his jockey Joel Rosario to make the right move when needed.
“(Governor Malibu) is very versatile. The great thing about using somebody like Rosario, he’s a top-class jockey and he can make the decision about whether to use him or not, early on in the race,” Clement said.
Stakes All Over
Governor Malibu will kick off the summer of stakes races for Clement at Saratoga, but he will have no shortage of opportunities to win all over the East Coast.
Starting this weekend, Clement is pointing his 5-year old, Irish-bred mare Sea Coast to the Grade-3 Matchmaker at 1 & 1/8 miles on turf at Monmouth Park on Haskell Day on July 31. Sea Coast comes out of the Grade-3 Eatontown at Monmouth where she closed for second chasing a “loose-on-the-lead” Isabella Sings. With Isabella Sings running in the Diana last weekend, Sea Coast should be a top choice this weekend.
Next weekend on Whitney Day at Saratoga on August 6, the French-bred gelding Blacktype will be pointed to the ungraded Lure Stakes at 1 & 1/16 miles on the turf. As mentioned above, Clement finished the recent Belmont meet strong and Blacktype was one of his big wins in an allowance race on July 3.
On the same day at Belmont, Clement got an allowance win with French-bred filly Stormy Victoria and will point her to the ungraded De La Rose on Whitney Day. Clement will have two chances in that race, as he is also pointing the impressive July 3 allowance winner and irish-bred Akatea to the De La Rose at a mile on the turf for fillies and mares four years old and up.
Clement will keep busy on Whitney Day as he is looking to start Trophee in the Grade-3 Waya at 1½ miles on the turf. Clement said that the French-bred Trophee is “doing well” and that he likes to be able to train the half-sister to 2013 Cartier Horse of the Year and two-time Group-1 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner, Treve.
“You prefer to train the ones with the better pedigrees because percentage, statistics-wise they win more often. No matter what a lot of people tell you, pedigree is very important,” he said.
An addition to Clement’s well-bred stable will be the invasion of a British-bred, 4-year old filly. “I got a filly from Italy named Joyful Hope that will run next week. I’m excited to see her run,” he said.
Joyful Hope was undefeated in her first two starts in Italy before placing second in the Group-2 Premio Oaks d’Italia to end May 2015. She has been working out at Saratoga since the end of June getting ready for her much-anticipated U.S. debut.
After the Saratoga meet, Clement will continue to make a push to the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint with Pure Sensation. After taking the Grade-3 Jaipur on the Belmont Stakes undercard in world record time for six furlongs on turf, Pure Sensation continued to sizzle winning the Grade-3 Parx Dash on July 9 by over 2 lengths. Clement has laid out a schedule to return Pure Sensation to Parx in early September for the Grade-3 Turf Monster, then a stakes at Belmont in October and then onto the Breeders’ Cup.
With all the stakes horses lining up for the summer, a few will need to wait until the fall including the multiple-graded stakes placed, dirt mile specialist Red Vine, who got sore after running in the Grade-3 Westchester in early May. “We gave him a break (60 days off) and (we hope) he’ll be back this fall,” said Clement.
Another top stakes turf sprinter for Clement is Summation Time, but Clement said, “We were not happy with his last race and he came back sore. He’s having some time off and probably will not be back in time for the (Saratoga) meet.”
Clement is able to complement his stable of established stars with a new group of young prospects. At the top of the list is two-year old filly Lull, bred and owned by Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilshneider. The daughter of War Front out of the Tiznow mare Quiet Now, Lull won at first asking on the Belmont turf at six furlongs on July 16.
“We’ll have to find another spot for (Lull) later on in the meet. She’s very impressive and she’s training great. She’s very well bred and for top-class connections. She was very impressive when she won, so she’s something to look forward to,” exclaimed Clement.
When asked about his other two year-olds, Clement responded, “I got a filly named Gulf that I like and another filly Montrachet named like the very famous wine.”
Gulf is another owned by Claiborne Farm and Dilshneider and was bought for $175,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Yearling Sale last year. A daughter of Blame, she has put in seven works at Saratoga on the Oklahoma dirt training track since early June prepping for her first race.
Montrachet has put in 8 works since early June, all on the Oklahoma training track for Clement. Sired by Broken Vow out of the Grand Slam mare Stellar, she was bought by Speedway Stables for $450,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Select 2-Year Olds in Training Sale in March. Montrachet’s dam ran second in the 2012 Grade-2 Adirondack and fourth in the 2012 Grade-1 Spinaway, so here breeding shows that she may be precocious.
With a stable of top stars mixed in with the attention and care that Clement gives his younger horses, a successful Saratoga meet is never a guarantee, but the way Clement does it is the right way for the game, win or lose.