Saturday, July 26, 2014

Christophe Clement headlines the summer issue of North American Trainer

Christophe Clement during training hours at Belmont Park the morning after the Belmont Stakes.
The summer issue of North American Trainer is now available online, with my cover profile on top trainer Christophe Clement. You can read it here or access this and previous issues of North American Trainer and European Trainer through the Trainer magazine website here.

The magazine also has an interesting look at backstretch conditions in the U.S. by Bill Heller and the usual thought-provoking column from Sid Fernando, among other articles.

We decided before the Belmont Stakes that we would feature Clement in this issue. I will either be very happy or very sad, he said to me when I scheduled the morning after the Belmont -- his call -- to spend with him. His trainee, the Robert S. Evans-owned Tonalist, won the race, of course, so not only was Clement very happy but it was almost impossible to have a conversation with him for all the people coming up to congratulate him.

Clement will always be remembered as the trainer of three-time Eclipse Award winner and turf horse Gio Ponti, but in Tonalist, a son of Tapit, Clement has a leading three-year-old whose talent matches his pedigree and who could go on to do great things, too.

A brilliant sire, Tapit is not known for getting horses who want to go much further than 9 furlongs (here is a blog post on him from February, 2013), whereas Tonalists broodmare sire Pleasant Colony is a source of stamina. Incidentally, in 1981 Pleasant Colony won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, then ran third to Summing in the Belmont. Tonalist extends from one of the great female families in the stud book, tracing to Broodmare of the Year Toll Booth and Missy Baba. He is the third Belmont winner, after A.P. Indy and Lemon Drop Kid, representing this family, which also includes Horse of the Year Havre de Grace. Toll Booth is the third dam of Tonalist and Havre de Grace, while Missy Baba is the fourth dam of those two plus A.P. Indy, Lemon Drop Kid, and Preakness winner Summer Squall.

Christophe Clement is on the verge of a personal milestone: as of the morning of July 26th, his horses have won 1,489 races. It won’t be long before he hits the 1,500 mark. Should Tonalist win this afternoon’s Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga, Clement will be one step closer to achieving the momentous win and moving on towards his next milestone.

Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist back at the Clement barn shortly after his big win.
Tonalist was hand-grazed after his post-race bath.
Clement's Green Mask, owned by Abdullah Saeed Almaddah, training on the turf at Belmont, with Ruffian's grave in the background.
Live Oak Stud's six-year-old Za Approval, millionaire and winner of multiple Grade 3s for Clement.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Criquette Head-Maarek profile in the new issue of European Trainer

2013 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner Treve at trainer Criquette Head-Maarek's yard.
The Summer 2014 issue of European Trainer is available online here. The magazine features our usual mix of veterinary and nutrition articles as well as my cover profile on Criquette Head-Maarek, the most successful woman trainer of all time.

Head-Maarek is among the most genuinely kind and gracious people in the racing and breeding industry, and even on an overcast and rainy day, as it was when I spent the morning with her at her Chantilly yard a short train ride from Paris, her enthusiasm is indefatigable. I was fortunate enough to spend an afternoon with her and her father Alec at their Haras du Quesnay in late 2007 and was struck by the same impression of her then as now.

Although the season has not started off on a winning note for last seasons Prix de lArc de Triomphe winner Treve, Head-Maarek has had a good start with her two-year-olds after South Bank -- a daughter of multiple Classic winner Special Duty, whom Head-Maarek also trained -- placed second in a black-type stakes race on June 26th.

My favorite photo of the morning.
Head-Maarek's yard is based near Chantilly Racecourse.
Criquette and her "Papa" Alec Head at the family's Haras du Quesnay in December, 2007.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Oaks and Derby photos

The obstructed view of Churchill Downs's famous twin spires from the backstretch.

The week leading up to the Oaks and Derby:

New at Churchill: There was a lot of buzz -- mostly positive -- about the $12 million video screen.
Untapable, ponied to the track by trainer Steve Asmussen.
Untapable training.
Paddock schooling.

My Miss Sophia was training well ahead of her second place in the Oaks.
Unbridled Forever, whose dam is 2006 Oaks winner Lemons Forever, after her final pre-race blowout leading up to the Oaks, in which she ran third.
California Chrome on the track for a jog...

...and at his barn.

Derby third Danza was training like a "boss" leading up to the race.
Grade 1 Malibu winner Shakin it Up, who was second to Central Banker by a head in a Grade 2 on Derby day, caught the eye in the morning.
Oaks Day, May 2nd:

In the La Troienne Stakes on the Oaks undercard, On Fire Baby (under Joe Johnson) won her second career Grade 1 and became a millionaire.
Marchman before winning his second consecutive Grade 3, the Twin Spires Turf Sprint.
Texas-bred filly Fiftyshadesofgold -- in the silks of the Estate of Clarence Schauerbauer, in whose silks 1987 Derby winner Alysheba also ran -- after winning the Grade 3 Eight Belles, Mike Smith up. Fiftyshadesofgold's third dam Alysbelle is a full sister to Alysheba.
Claimed for $40,000 on November 30th, Moonshine Mullin won the Grade 2 Alysheba Stakes on Friday, with heavy favorite Will Take Charge unplaced.
Moonshine Mullin and Calvin Borel return to the winner's circle.
2012 Travers Stakes-G1 dead-heater Golden Ticket was second in the Alysheba.
Coin Broker, who was third in the Alysheba, under Corey Lanerie.
Win or lose, three-year-old champ and 2013 Travers winner Will Take Charge always catches the eye.
Will Take Charge and Gary Stevens.
Untapable, shortly before winning the Oaks in resounding style.
After their win, Rosie Napravnik and Untapable in a final moment of solitude.
Easing up.
John Velazquez, on the unplaced Got Lucky, rode by and asked, "Do I have enough dirt on my face?"
An outrider congratulates Untapable's connections.
Empress of Midway, who flipped in the gate and was scratched from the Oaks, walking back to the barn. Concerned assistant trainer Jack on her right never took his hand or eye off her.
Derby Day, May 3rd:

Coffee Clique after winning the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Distaff Turf Mile, the first stakes on Derby day.
Making her first start in 11 months, favorite Midnight Lucky and Rosie Napravnik after winning the Grade 1 Humana Distaff. Her only loss was in last year's Kentucky Oaks.
Midnight Lucky walking to the stable area after her 4 1/2-length win.
The great face marking of Scherzinger, who was third behind Midnight Lucky.
Gary Stevens and Global View -- a rare U.S.-bred  by Galileo -- make their way to the winner's circle after the Grade 2 American Turf.
Central Banker prior to winning the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Stakes.
He ran second by a head but the handsome Shakin it Up -- whose granddam Silverbulletday won the 1999 Kentucky Oaks -- didn't look like he'd even had a race after the Churchill Downs Stakes.
Two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan walking on his way to earn his tenth Grade 1 win, the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic -- a race he also won last year.
The owner of one of the Derby horses was ready for the walkover, with his nice shoes in a WalMart bag.
Perfect Drift was third in the 2001 Derby. In 2014, he ponied Derby winner California Chrome to the start.
California Chrome checking out the scene before the walkover.
Longshot Commanding Curve, who gave Dallas Stewart a second consecutive runner-up in the Kentucky Derby. Stewart was third in the Oaks this year with Unbridled Forever.
After the wire, Victor Espinoza on California Chrome and Jose Ortiz on Samraat (fifth) fist-bump.
A grin on Espinoza's face as it begins to sink in.
The Derby winner heads home.
After the Run for the Roses.