In what is arguably the most talent-laden race meet in the country and the most prestigious place on earth to visit the winner’s circle with a 2-year-old, Christophe Clement led all trainers in victories at Saratoga Race Course without the aid of the race day diuretic Lasix.
Mr. Clement’s Saratoga stats were impressive with five first-, four second-, and four third-place finishers from 25 starters equating to a 20% strike rate and 52% in-the-money finishes. Kenneth McPeek, who led the meet at Saratoga on horses without Lasix in 2018, finished second with three wins. Bill Mott and Kelsey Danner each had two non-Lasix wins at the meet.
Mr. Clement finished 5th overall in the trainer standings at Saratoga this year, winning 13 races from 64 starts and amassing $1,088,457 in earnings.
Most of Mr. Clement’s in-the-money finishes came in maiden special weight races with $90,000 purses ($75,000 for New York-breds). What is most impressive is his ability to race 2-year-olds without Lasix at the highest level of the Saratoga stakes calendar.
It began on July 13, with Mr. Clement saddling a More than Ready colt, Tomato Bill, to a second-place finish in the $150,000 Sanford Stakes (G3). On July 17, a Mr. Clement-trained Afleet Alex colt, Listentoyourheart, came up a nose short running second in the Rick Violette Stakes for New York-breds. The following day, his 2-year-old filly Jewel of Arabia finished third in the $100,00 black-type Stillwater Stakes for New York-breds.
On August 23, 2019, Mr. Clement trainees finished first and third in another New York-bred race, the $200,000 Funny Cide Stakes for 2-year-olds. City Man, a Mucho Macho Man colt, pulled away from eight other horses for an impressive 4 and 3/4-length score. Listentoyourheart finished third.
He says, “In my barn, the policy is to race the young horses (2-year-olds) without Lasix, unless we have a small bleeding episode. I usually put them on Lasix when they get older so we can compete on a level playing field.
“If a serious bleeding episode occurs in one of our 2-year-olds, then we will turn him out and give him time for his lungs to heal. There is nothing better than time to heal a major bleeding occurrence.
“The same would apply in Europe — usually the first time a young horse bleeds you slow down your training, and the second time you just stop and turn him out. Also, in Europe, even if you can’t race on Lasix, you do have access to work them on Lasix if needed.”
Mr. Clement began his career at a time when administering Lasix on race day was prohibited.
He says, “Now everybody gets Lasix — not only for bleeding but to make sure that the trainer next door does not have an edge. It’s obviously the wrong reason, but sadly this is what’s happening.
“Clearly it has been completely overused.
“When you see a 2-year-old maiden race on May 1 and you have seven or eight horses running on Lasix, then we have a problem. It is impossible that these horses have been bleeding before their first race. I do believe it is abusive to use Lasix so aggressively on 2-year-olds, especially so early in their lives.”
Final meet statistics
This year there were a total of 16 winners at Saratoga not on Lasix out of 176 starts. In 2018, there were a total of 11 wins from 152 starts from horses without Lasix.
Saratoga’s contrast with Del Mar is stark. This year, there were only three winners not on Lasix at the summer seaside oval out of 51 starts. The paucity of winners at Del Mar this year is not an aberration. In fact, it’s an improvement! In 2018, there was only one winner from 30 starts.
Which track is out of sync with the rest of the nation?
It appears to be Del Mar. Other tracks with summer race meets had numerous winners. A few examples with the number of wins through Labor Day are Presque Isles (28 winners), Arlington Park (26 winners), and Delaware Park (23 winners).