There was no hotter trainer on the grounds through opening weekend at Saratoga than Christophe Clement, which is saying something considering the array of champion and Hall of Fame conditioners that occupy the backstretch of America's premier race meet. After winning five races from 13 starters in the first four days of the stand, including a pair of graded stakes victories, Clement joined the TDN Writers' Room presented by Keeneland to discuss his hot start.
Calling in via Zoom as the Green Group Guest of the Week, the French-born trainer also touched on the increased competition for imports from Europe, summer and fall plans for his leading 3-year-old turfers and how his stable bounced back from tragedy earlier in the year.
Asked about hitting the ground running following the coronavirus-forced interruption of racing in New York, Clement said, “The pandemic has been a challenge regarding the workforce and the organization of the barn, but I think we're very lucky in New York. NYRA and Martin Panza did a great job and we're just lucky to race here. It's probably more challenging for the people who only have one string, but we're lucky because we do have a string in Saratoga before the meet. That makes it much easier.”
In addition to capturing the GII Hall of Fame S. and GII Lake Placid S. last weekend at the Spa, Clement also unveiled a 'TDN Rising Star' with Momos (Distorted Humor) romping in the first 2-year-old race of the meet.
“I've got a very good group of 2-year-olds this year,” Clement said. “Momos is all about speed. He's built like a very fast horse. He's not big, but he's very well balanced. My only instruction to [Manny] Franco was, 'We know the horse is very fast, don't make it too complicated.' He gave a very good ride and he was always in control. That's pretty exciting.”
Clement's operation is likely a sentimental favorite for many in the industry this year after dealing with the devastation of losing 10 horses in a trailer fire on the New Jersey Turnpike last month. Speaking candidly about how to cope with that kind of loss, Clement said simply, you can't.
“I don't think you cope with that,” he said. “That phone call, I think it was 3:45 or 4:00 in the morning from the state trooper, it's the worst of the worst. I'm lucky in a way because I train for amazing owners, so in a way they made it easy on me. But no, nobody can cope with that. That's the worst.”
Elsewhere on the show, the writers gave their takeaways from the rest of the weekend's big racing including the GI Haskell S., discussed the temporary closure of Del Mar and the increasing unlikelihood of fans in the stands for the GI Kentucky Derby. Then, in the West Point Thoroughbreds news segment, they used the return of Maximum Security (New Year's Day) as an opportunity to look back on whether anything has changed with racing's drug problems in the four-plus months since the bombshell FBI indictments. Click here to listen to the podcast and click here to watch it on Vimeo.