Less than 12 hours after saddling Tonalist to an upset victory in the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes (gr. I), trainer Christophe Clement was in his usual spot on the apron at Belmont Park at 5:30 a.m. June 8, overseeing workouts.
Clement, a native of France who is known for his work ethic and affable personality, was absorbing the magnitude of the previous day's success, in which Tonalist denied California Chrome a coveted Triple Crown trophy. At the same time, he was taking care of business.
"It's great," Clement said of the Belmont victory, adding that to win such a prestigious race "is a bit of a dream.
"It would be pretentious to say I knew he was going to win, but I knew he would run a nice race," the trainer said. He noted that the son of Tapit, winner of the Peter Pan Stakes (gr. II) over the track May 10, had continued to train well at Belmont.
Ridden by Joel Rosario, Tonalist won a head over Commissioner, paying $20.40 to win. The $800,000 first prize in the Belmont boosts his earnings to $957,000.
Clement declined to speculate on Tonalist's next start, saying: "Let's see how he comes out of it (the Belmont). Let's just wait a day or two." Assuming the colt has no problems, Clement said the late season 3-year-old races would likely be on the agenda. Clement indicated the $1.25 million Travers Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga Aug. 23 would be among the races he would target for Tonalist.
"The Travers is very much under consideration, I'm sure," he said. "I will have to speak to [owner Robert S.] Evans about it. Of course, you like to think about it. I do believe there is more to come. I really do. I think physically and mentally there is more to come. My whole deal is keep it simple; just keep him sound and keep him fit and he will take care of the rest because he is a nice horse."
Evans is chairman of the Crane Co. whose late father, Thomas Mellon Evans, enjoyed success with his Buckland Farm starting in 1964. Among the top horses campaigned by Buckland was Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and Preakness Stakes (gr. I) winner Pleasant Colony, the sire of Tonalist's dam, Settling Mist.
The Belmont winner was bred by Rene and Lauren Woolcott, who operate Woodslane Farm near The Plains, Va. Tonalist was offered for sale at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling sale in 2011 through the consignment of Sweezey and Partners, agent, where he RNA'd. Evans purchased him later back at the barn.
Sweezey and Partners is operated by Wayne and Cathy Sweezey, who also operate Timber Town Farm near Lexington.
"I am very happy for Mr. Evans and I am very happy for the whole team back at the barn," a gracious Clement said. "I am also very grateful for the Sweezeys push to Mr. Evans to buy this horse."
Clement credited his assistant, Ben Colbrook, who oversaw the training of Tonalist at Clement's division at Keeneland once the colt came to the stable from Payson Park Training Center last summer.
The 17-hands-tall colt was fourth in his debut last Nov. 16 at Aqueduct Racetrack, then broke his maiden by four lengths Jan. 18 going nine furlongs at Gulfstream Park. He ran second to eventual Besilu Stables Florida Derby (gr. I) winner Constitution in an entry-level allowance race Feb. 22.