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Therapist Rallies to Win Emotional First Defence for Clement
Credit: NYRA

Therapist Rallies to Win Emotional First Defence for Clement

ELMONT, NY – After experiencing the lowest of lows earlier that morning, trainer Christophe Clement got a small leg up when his Oak Bluff Stables homebred Therapist rallied to edge Majestic Dunhill in Sunday’s $80,000 First Defence Stakes at Belmont Park.

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Tragedy struck early Sunday morning when a truck and trailer transporting 10 Clement trainees crashed and caught fire on the New Jersey Turnpike.

The wheel of life stops for no man, however, and Clement was faced with the unenviable task of saddling three runners at Belmont Park, including Therapist, whom Clement co-bred. Therapist was making his first start of the calendar year in search of victory, which he had not found since the Elusive Quality Stakes was held over this same course and distance in April, 2019.

Sent postward from the far outside gate in the field of 13, Therapist did not attract much betting attention, going off at 8/1 odds despite having aboard the nation’s leading rider in wins and earnings. Irad Ortiz, Jr., allowed Therapist to find his groove in the rear half of the field while Vici and Nicodemus dueled through opening fractions of :22.42 and :45.52.

Nicodemus soon gave way after the halfway point, around the same time that Lonhtwist ranged up along Vici’s outside. The two raced heads apart at the top of the stretch, but the multi-length gap between them and the rest of the field was about to vanish.

Therapist, purposely kept wide through the far turn, found himself just outside of Majestic Dunhill as they straightened for home and led the cavalry charge to the front. Just before the 1/16 pole, Therapist and Majestic Dunhill swept past a struggling Vici to take the lead, while Flavius made his bid on the rail to make it a three-horse sprint to the finish.

Therapist came in slightly on Majestic Dunhill, and together, they angled toward the rail as Flavius was surging. At the wire, it was Therapist’s head who crossed first, just as Flavius had to check out of any potential trouble. The final time for the 7-furlong firm outer turf course sprint was 1:21.39.

Therapist (outside) outlegs Majestic Dunhill (Credit: NYRA / Chelsea Durand)

“I thought he was going to go by easy, but he hung a little bit at the end,” said Ortiz, Jr., who has a meet-leading 13 wins. “He got the job done. They went a little fast. I was sitting behind the horse that finished second and I wanted to just follow him through the stretch. When I tipped my horse out, he responded really well.”

Not long after the field completed the race, the stewards hung the inquiry sign in order to focus on the deep stretch run, and Reylu Gutierrez (aboard Majestic Dunhill) lodged a claim of foul against Therapist. However, after reviewing the footage, the stewards dismissed Gutierrez’s claim and allowed the result to stand.

“I held my line pretty well,” said Ortiz, Jr.. “Right there, at the wire, it got close, but I controlled him right away.”

Seismic Wave tried rallying last-to-first in the stretch but ran out of real estate, finishing a neck behind Flavius in fourth. Hawkish took fifth over the fading Vici, who held onto sixth by a nose over the ground-saving but non-firing 5/2 favorite Sombeyay.

DelawareHonor UpWin Win Win and Lonhtwist (who were in a dead heat for tenth), Skyler’s Scramjet, and Nicodemus completed the order of finish. Jakarta was scratched, as were Complexity and Stan the Man, the two Main Track Only entries.

Therapist’s win, his seventh at the stakes level, improved his overall record to 17-8-0-4. The New York-bred 5-year-old Freud gelding has now earned $534,345.

“It was a bittersweet end to a difficult day after the accident this morning,” said Clement, who won a second race earlier in the day. “The horses have been running well and we won two races today for the same owner, Oak Bluff Stable. I thought Therapist ran a very game race. He really likes the 7/8 (of a mile).”

Therapist returned $18.60 to win, $9.50 to place, and $5.50 to show. Majestic Dunhill $10.60 to place and $6.10 to show, while Flavius paid $4.40 to show.

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