ELMONT, N.Y. – Trainer Christophe Clement boasts a bustling stable at Belmont Park, including a number of promising stakes contenders for the upcoming spring meet led by a pair of turf sophomores by Declaration of War in Otter Bend Stables’ Gufo and West Point Thoroughbreds, William T. Freeman, William Sandbrook, and Cheryl Manning‘s Grade 1-winner Decorated Invader.
“They’re by the same stallion, have a similar running style, and they run the same distance on the same surface,” said Miguel Clement, assistant trainer to his father. “They were working together last May as 2-year-olds at Saratoga and they’ll likely run against each other soon enough.”
Gufo, who won the English Channel last out at Gulfstream Park, is out of the Petionville mare Floy and is a half-brother to multiple graded-stakes winning millionaire Hogy. Gufo earned a career-best 90 Beyer Speed Figure for his last-to-first effort in a loaded 11-horse edition of the 1 1/16-mile English Channel.
Decorated Invader, a $200,000 purchase at the 2018 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, graduated impressively at second asking in August at Saratoga Race Course. He then traveled north to Woodbine where he won the Grade 1 Summer on a yielding turf ahead of a fourth in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita Park in November.
Out of the Arch mare Gamely Girl, Decorated Invader rallied from 11th to win the Cutler Bay, a one-mile turf test on March 28 at Gulfstream Park in his seasonal debut.
Clement said Decorated Invader will target the Grade 2, $150,000 Pennine Ridge, a one-mile turf test for 3-year-olds slated for Belmont Stakes Day June 20 at Belmont Park, while Gufo is under consideration for the $150,000 Cinema, a nine-furlong turf test for 3-year-olds on June 6 at Santa Anita Park.
“I’m very happy with both of them,” said Clement. “Declaration of War is at Payson Park and will head up to New York next week. He’s training very well and will work again here tomorrow on the grass. We’re very pleased with him and he’s looking well.”
Oak Bluff Stables’ Therapist, a 5-year-old son of Freud, has continued to train well toward his seasonal debut. Bred in the Empire State by Christophe Clement and Oak Bluff Stables, Therapist boasts a record of seven wins and four thirds from 16 career starts.
He worked five furlongs in 1:03.77 Tuesday on the Belmont main track.
Clement said the popular Therapist is pointing to the $80,000 First Defence, a seven-furlong turf test slated for June 7.
Castleton Lyons’ Gucci Factor, a New York-bred son of Gio Ponti who won the 2019 Grade 3 Poker, could make his seasonal debut in the Grade 2, $150,000 Fort Marcy at nine furlongs on the turf. Bred in New York by Highclere, the 7-year-old bay rallied to win the Mohawk by a nose last out in October at Belmont.
“Gucci Factor might go in the mile and an eighth race [Fort Marcy] as a prep for the New York-bred stakes later on,” said Clement.
Focus Group, a 6-year-old son of Kitten’s Joy, was off-the-board last out in the Grade 2 Pan American at Gulfstream Park in his first start for new connections.
A five-time winner from 17 starts with $494,569 in purse earnings, Focus Group, previously conditioned by Chad Brown, was purchased from the Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale and is now campaigned by West Point Thoroughbreds, New Phoenix Stable, Louisa Stevenson and Tango Uniform Racing.
“He’ll be heading back to New York soon,” said Clement. “He was unlucky in his seasonal debut. He was a victim of both pace and trip, nevertheless he is training forwardly and I expect him to perform better next out.”
The now 9-year-old Pure Sensation continues to train forwardly at Payson Park for Clement. A Patricia Generazio homebred, the Zensational gelding boasts a record of 36-14-5-7 and is just shy of $2 million in career earnings.
Out of the multiple-stakes winner Pure Disco, Pure Sensation is under consideration for the Grade 1, $250,000 Jaipur presented by America’s Best Racing. The six-furlong turf test for 3-year-olds and up is slated for Belmont Stakes Day June 20 and offers a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint.
Clement said the ageless grey, who won four-of-six starts in 2019, continues to impress as he prepares for his seasonal debut.
“He’s enjoyed an extended holiday by design. His next race might be the Jaipur. He’s a testament to the Generazio homebred program,” said Clement.
Calumet Farm‘s undefeated 3-year-old Casino Grande has shown tremendous ability with a 1 3/4-length debut sprint score on March 14 at Tampa Bay Downs ahead of a commanding last-out win in a one-mile optional-claiming event on May 16 at Gulfstream Park that garnered an 82 Beyer Speed Figure.
Clement said the Cairo Prince bay has significant upside and is likely to target a stakes race at Belmont next month.
“He won at Tampa first time out and got a very good Ragozin number. He then came back and won a salty allowance at Gulfstream,” said Clement. “He’s two-for-two and won both impressively. I think he’s very good. The question now is whether we continue to stretch him out or not.”
Photo: Christophe Clement. Credit: Sarah Andrew